By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – For the second time in two years the Tennessee Tech baseball team has put together a 10-game winning streak, completing a sweep of Northwestern Sunday morning after defeating the Wildcats (2-8), 8-6 in a thriller.
With the victory, the Golden Eagles (11-1) also tied the 1970 Tech squad for the second best 12-game start to a season. Former head coach W.A. Wright led Tech to an 11-1 start, finishing the 1970 season 21-14 overall. The 1955 team still owns the standard for a start to a year, winning its first 14 games while starting 15-1 before its second loss. The head coach of that squad? None other than the very man whose name dons the field at Bush Stadium at the Averitt Express Baseball Complex, Malcolm Quillen. His group of Golden Eagles finished the year 17-2 while winning the program's second Ohio Valley Conference regular season championship.
As for head coach Matt Bragga's squad, the Golden Eagles got off to a great start with the bat against the Wildcats, hammering home four runs in the first inning of the game.
Tech took advantage of four Northwestern missteps throughout the contest, including one in the opening inning. Following a first-half run by the Wildcats, Tech made two quick outs to start the bottom half. But slugger Zach Stephens woke the Golden Eagle bats up, drilling a single just inside the left field line to start a two-out barrage.
The junior came through, lacing a single to center field to drive in two runs and give the Tech squad the early 2-1 lead. Jake Rowland then smacked a high hopper to shortstop, leaving no doubt that the inning would be over. But as the shortstop tossed the ball to second for the force out, Northwestern second baseman muffed the throw, allowing Bosheers to slide in safely and Rowland to reach on a fielder's choice.
Left fielder David Allen made the Wildcats pay for the mistake, smacking a two-run single to left field to increase the Tech lead to 4-1.
The Tech squad scratched across another run in the bottom of second to up its advantage to 5-1. Second baseman Zach Zarzour led off the inning with a bunt single to third base and eventually made it all the way around, scoring on a fielder's choice ball by Daniel Miles.
The Wildcats made things interesting in the third, tallying two runs off a double by Matt Hopfner and single by Cody Stevens to cut the Tech lead down to 5-3. But another defensive miscue led to an unearned run by Bosheers in the fifth.
After reaching with a single to right center field, Bosheers stole second to set up Jake Rowland with a man in scoring position and one out. Rowland connected on a routine hit to left field, advancing Bosheers to third. But the Wildcat left fielder bobbled the ball as he tried to pick it up, allowing Bosheers to cross the plate.
Northwestern wasn't about to give up, however, striking fear into the Golden Eagle fans in the top of the seventh. The Wildcats quickly loaded the bases with no one out, looking to break the game wide open.
Following an RBI single by Nick Linne, the call went to Cookeville native Ross Spurgeon to come in and shut down the threat. He did a remarkable job, allowing just two more runs to score off of a sac fly and single to right field before striking out Jack Mitchell and forcing Zach Jones into an inning-ending ground ball to shortstop. The damage had been done though, as Northwestern tied the game 6-6.
But just as the Wildcats thought their luck was turning for the better, it got worse. Miles kicked things off by drawing a four-pitch walk. Two batters later Bosheers connected on another base hit that gave a Northwestern outfielder problems. This time the center fielder mishandled the ball, giving Miles the opportunity to come home and rally the Golden Eagles back to a 7-6 lead.
Spurgeon then killed any momentum the Wildcats might still have had, shutting them down 1-2-3 in the top of the eighth. The righty struck out the first batter on four pitches before forcing the next Northwestern player to foul out on an 0-2 count. He finished the inning by fanning another Wildcat on three pitches.
Tech added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth, letting redshirt freshman Hunter Hudson run wild as a pinch hitter. The outfielder singled to left field to lead-off the inning and promptly stole second. He then scored on an RBI single to left field by Zarzour, showing his blazing speed by beating the throw attempt by a mile.
On came closer Seth Lucio in the top of the ninth to close things out. And that's just what the junior did, earning his fourth save of the season with quick work.
The Golden Eagles ran wild in the game, swiping seven bases, including two each for Bosheers, Zarzour, and Rowland.
Overall, Bosheers and Zarzour led the offensive punch for the Tech squad. Bosheers finished 3-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored while Zarzour tallied three hits in five trips to the plate. He scored a run while driving in one as well.
Spurgeon garnered his second win of the season, tossing two innings while allowing just one hit and striking out three.
Next on the schedule for the Golden Eagles is big midweek match-up at No. 4 Vanderbilt on Tuesday, Mar. 4. First pitch is set for 4 p.m. CT as the Tech squad will look for lightning to strike twice in Nashville. In last season's contest, Tech grabbed the win over the No. 2-ranked Commodores, completing a 10-9 victory for the biggest upset in Golden Eagle athletics history.
Fans can follow the action of Tuesday's game live on FM 106.1 The Eagle with play-by-play being offered by Dylan Vazzano of the Golden Eagle Sports Network.