By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The true sign of an ace is the ability to make adjustments on the fly without missing a beat on the mound. Junior David Hess took on that role in a big way Friday afternoon, leading the Tennessee Tech baseball team (12-2, 1-0) to a dominating, 11-1 victory over Eastern Kentucky (4-8, 0-1) in the team's Ohio Valley Conference opener.
A right-hander from Tullahoma, Tenn., Hess collected his third win of the season while scattering five hits and allowing no earned runs on the day. More impressively, however, was the way he handled himself as the game went on.
Hess was literally perfect through the first three innings, surrendering no hits and no walks while keeping the Golden Eagles in it early with game scoreless. But on a day where the EKU bats kept making contact, the typically dominant strikeout pitcher adjusted his approach to force the Colonels into pop-ups, fly balls, and groundouts.
In his first career Friday start, Hess recorded four strikeouts, three under his normal pace. But because of his veteran and savvy approach, the Tech defense was able to turn four double plays on the day and nearly shut-out an otherwise normally potent offense.
The spectacular pitching performance was only half of the story. Senior sluggers Zach Stephens and Brandon Thomasson provided a huge spark at the plate, recording four RBI each and combining for six hits.
Tech got rolling in the fourth inning, starting with a single by Thomasson through the left side. Shortstop Dylan Bosheers extended his hitting streak to 11 games on the next pitch, smacking a double to left center field to drive in Tech's first run of the game. Designated hitter Jordan Hopkins followed, taking the next offering through the left side while driving in Bosheers.
The next inning was twice as good for the Tech squad as the Golden Eagles exploded for four more runs in the bottom of the fifth, using a three-run bomb off the bat of Stephens to all but extinguish any comeback dreams the Colonels may have had.
And the Golden Eagles weren't done. In the bottom of the sixth, Tech loaded the bases with just one out and Thomasson walked to the plate. It didn't take long for the right fielder to make the Eastern Kentucky pitchers pay, as the he unloaded for a bases-clearing double to left center field, driving the Tech lead up to 10-0.
The Colonels did manage to scrape one run across the board in the top of the seventh, taking advantage of the one Golden Eagle error on the day.
Stephens finished the day 3-for-4 at the dish, gathering a walk and scoring two runs on top of his four RBI. Thomasson also scored two runs and gathered three hits while matching his teammate's four RBI. Hopkins added two RBI on the day, recording three hits in four at bats.
Junior Justin Alexander finished off the final two innings of the game, allowing just one hit while striking out a batter and making quick work of the final offensive attack of the Colonels.
Tech and Eastern Kentucky will square off in Game Two of the series on Saturday as freshman Evan Fraliex will get the bump for his first weekend start of the year. He take on Colonel senior Tanner Perkins in a 2 p.m. CT contest.