By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
MOREHEAD, Ky. – The weather played havoc with a game that was supposed to start at 2 p.m. CT, got under way at 3:30 p.m. and didn't end until about 10 p.m., but in the end, the No. 16 Tennessee Tech baseball team came away with another victory, defeating Morehead State (31-22, 17-11) on the road, 10-7.
The Golden Eagles (45-6, 26-2) received a stellar pitching performance from senior starter Travis Moths, who tossed a total of five innings on his way to his record-breaking and tying 12th win of the season. The right-hander used just nine pitches to get through the first frame, but the skies opened up and lightning threatened the area, forcing a nearly three-hour delay.
Despite sitting for that long after going through the pregame process and a half inning, Moths returned to the hill when the action commenced, working three more scoreless frames before surrendering his only run of the contest, an RBI on a sacrifice fly. All-in-all, he scattered four hits and a walk while punching out two.
With the win, Moths officially became Tech's all-time wins leader, earning his 24th career victory. He also tied the program's single-season wins record, matching the legendary season put forth by Mark Maberry in 1997. That season, Maberry became the only player in Ohio Valley Conference history to earn both Player and Pitcher of the Year honors, finishing 12-2 overall.
The offense had to wait until after the delay before it would see the scoreboard light up in its favor, but it was well worth the wait. With two outs in the top of the second, and runners on second and third, the delay occurred before Collin Harris could take his turn in the box.
The senior was patient, waiting through the delay and returning to fight off two pitches on a 2-1 count. He then ripped a single to right field, driving in both runs for a 2-0 lead. Two innings later, Tech would blow the game wide open.
Patience was a theme on the day, as Tech actually earned more walks than hits. The Golden Eagles drew eight free passes while managing just six hits to score 10 runs. Harris' two RBI drove in runners that reached on walks.
In the fourth, it was more of the same. Senior Chase Chambers led off the inning getting plunked by a pitch. Shortstop David Garza walked and, with two outs, Harris also drew a walk, loading the bases for third baseman Cody Littlejohn. The sophomore delivered, blasting his second grand slam of the season to right center field for a 6-0 lead. It was just the second hit of the game for Tech.
Tech put things away for good in the fifth, thanks to more timely hitting. Senior Brennon Kaleiwahea led off the frame with a single to right center field. Then, junior Kevin Strohschein showed off his power, crushing a two-run bomb to center field, his team-leading 16th round-tripper of the season. Chambers would score another Tech run in the inning with a bases-loaded balk, making it 9-0.
Morehead State made an attempt at a comeback, scoring solo runs in the fifth and sixth innings before pouring in four in the bottom of the seventh. With two outs and the lead cut to just three, head coach Matt Bragga turned to closer Ethan Roberts to finish off the contest.
The junior earned a punch out to end the seventh, and Strohschein offered some insurance in the eighth, lacing an RBI double to right field for a 10-6 advantage. Roberts tossed a scoreless eighth and was effective again in the ninth after surrendering a leadoff solo shot.
Following the long ball, the Sparta, Tenn. native dug deep to record a pop up, strikeout and induce a game-ending ground ball. He made some history with the final out, recording his 13th save of the year to tie the program's single-season record set by himself just last season.
Roberts finished with two and third innings of work while striking out three and allowing just one run. Strohschein led the offense with a 2-for-5 showing and three RBI while Littlejohn drove in four with his third long ball of the year. Chambers reached base four times, posting a hit, two walks and a hit-by-pitch. He also scored three runs.
Game two of the series has been moved up to a 12:00 p.m. CT start due to pending inclement weather in the Morehead area. Fans are encouraged to check social media and the TTUSports.com website for updates concerning this weekend's schedule.
Photo by Tony Marable