By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
AUSTIN, Texas – Known for its offense, it was the pitching staff that shined brightest for the No. 10 Tennessee Tech baseball team Saturday afternoon, as the Golden Eagles (53-10) held on to defeat No. 5 Texas (40-21) 5-4 in the first ever Super Regional action by an Ohio Valley Conference team.
Tech sits just one win away from advancing to the College World Series for the first time in program history, gathering stellar efforts on the hill from a pair of recent MLB Draft picks.
The highest selection in program history – taken in the fourth round by the Chicago Cubs – closer Ethan Roberts flashed the skill he showed all season, covering the final four frames while allowing just one hit, one walk and one run. The junior struck out four while converting his 15th save of the year, extending his own program record.
He became the first Golden Eagle reliever in history to reach triple digits in strikeouts in a single season and just the fifth different Tech pitcher to accomplish the feat. Roberts also extended his career saves record to 30 in three years.
Junior starter Marcus Every – selected by the New York Yankees in the 20th round – went five strong for the purple and gold, allowing just three runs (only two earned) on four hits and three walks while fanning four. He moved to a perfect 8-0 on the year in claiming the victory.
It was the Longhorns who jumped on the scoreboard first on Saturday, scoring on a sacrifice fly ball for a 1-0 lead in the first. Tech came back in the third, loading the bases with one out to put the pressure on Texas starter Nolan Kingham.
Senior backstop Brennon Kaleiwahea delivered Tech's first blow of the game, punching a "Benny Special" through the right side for a pair of runs and his team's first lead of the game. The Longhorns responded in the bottom half, gathering another sacrifice fly ball to knot things at 2-2 before Kody Clemens broke the tie with a solo home run to right field.
Neither team could get anything across in the fifth, but the Golden Eagles went back to work in the fifth, starting with a leadoff walk by Alex Junior. The 19th-round selection of the New York Yankees worked an eight-pitch at bat before Kaleiwahea followed with a base knock to left field.
Senior Chase Chambers – an 18th-round selection of the New York Mets – provided the big swing for the Golden Eagles, crushing the first pitch he saw off the top of the wall in right center field and just out of the reach of a leaping attempt by the center fielder.
The drive brought two runs in for Tech, flipping the script to a 4-3 lead in favor of the visitors. Not done yet, senior shortstop David Garza – drafted in the 38th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks – provided the key insurance needed down the stretch by lacing an RBI double down the right field line with two outs in the frame.
Texas managed to put the first two runners of the sixth on with back-to-back walks, leading Tech head coach Matt Bragga to call on Roberts for the final four innings. And boy did he deliver.
The All-OVC First Team selection struck out the side to escape the jam, highlighted by a punch out of DJ Petrinsky on a full count to end the frame. Texas managed a run in the seventh with some wacky weather making an appearance. With the temperature peaking at 95 degrees, a quick rain shower developed and hosed the field with the Golden Eagles in the field, cooling the place 15 degrees in about 10 minutes.
During the inning, the Longhorns cut the Tech lead to one with yet another sacrifice fly. Roberts dug in, however, ending the frame without any further damage and working a scoreless eighth and ninth to shut the door and put the Golden Eagles one win away from their preseason goal.
Game two of the series is set for another 2 p.m. CT first pitch on Sunday, June 10. The Golden Eagles will represent the home team in the contest after serving as the visiting squad on Saturday.
Photo by Thomas Corhern