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Golden Eagles rally for 11-inning, season-opening win at South Alabama

By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information Coordinator

MOBILE, Ala. – With new faces sprinkled on the lineup card, the No. 36 Tennessee Tech baseball team got off to a fantastic start to the 2014 season behind the veteran play of some familiar names. The Golden Eagles won an extra-innings thriller, coming from behind to defeat South Alabama, 5-4, in 11 innings in Mobile, Ala. Friday evening.

Preseason All-American Zach Stephens kicked off the season with a bang, starting the Golden Eagles rally with a solo shot in the top of the fourth inning to cut the early Jaguar lead to 3-1. The dinger marked the first of his career on opening day and set the pace for a slow, but methodical Tech comeback.

With two outs in the top of the fifth, junior David Allen collected his first career hit, singling to left field. Another single up the middle by senior Jordan Parris and hit to centerfield by second baseman Zach Zarzour drove in Allen to cut the lead down to just 3-2.

Tech followed it up in the sixth as well, striking twice to take a 4-3 lead. Senior third baseman Daniel Miles ripped a one-out double to left center field to set up Dylan Bosheers for an unusual occurrence. On a 1-1 count, the second baseman singled up the middle, advancing to second while Miles scored the tying run. But that wasn't the end. South Alabama's catcher tried to pick off Bosheers going for second base and threw the ball away, allowing the junior to travel all the way home on a single play.

The Jaguars wouldn't go away easily, however, tallying a game-tying run in the bottom of the eighth with some good old-fashioned small ball. Senior pitcher Ross Spurgeon entered the contest in relief and Matt Wojciechowski welcomed him with a single to right field. USA used pinch runner Cole Jarman and a sac bunt from Davis Knapp to set up Logan Kirkland for a chance to the tie the game with a runner in scoring position. He answered the call, drilling a single to right field to even things up at 4-4.

Spurgeon would settle after the run, wrapping up the inning before tossing two more huge innings to help set up the win. The Cookeville native went on to strike out four of the final six batters he faced, giving the Golden Eagles a shot to grab the lead in the top of the eleventh.

And that's just what they did. Two quick outs made Tech's fortunes look bleak, but the veteran squad never gave up. Parris patiently drew a four-pitch walk, followed by a single through the right side by Zarzour. A Jaguar pitching change wasn't enough either, as both runners would advance on a passed ball to give redshirt freshman Tyler Brazelton a chance for heroics.

The right fielder showed great instincts at the plate in the at-bat, drawing the walk on a full count to load the bases for the Stephens. And the senior delivered, forcing Matt Peacock to pitch to him. The first baseman drew a walk for his second RBI of the game to give Tech a 5-4 lead.

And then it was Seth Lucio's turn. The junior closer stepped in and picked up right where he left off from a season ago when he tied the career saves record for the Tech program with 12 saves. Lucio forced a quick ground out to third before retiring the final two batters on swinging strikeouts to collect his first save of the year and break the all-time Golden Eagle record.

Senior Ross Spurgeon collected his first win of season, fanning four batters in 3.0 innings of relief. Bosheers, Miles, Zarzour, and redshirt sophomore Jake Rowland each collected two hits to lead the team while Stephens led the squad with two RBI.

The Golden Eagles will hit the diamond again on Saturday afternoon for a 2 p.m. CT match-up with the Jaguars. Junior right-hander David Hess will take the mound for the Tech bunch, facing off against South Alabama lefty Locke St. John.