By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – A seesaw battle for much of the day, the No. 21 ranked Tennessee Tech baseball team rallied and held on late to defeat Alabama A&M Wednesday afternoon, extending the nation's longest winning streak to 22 games with a 12-8 victory in Huntsville, Ala.
With the win over the Bulldogs (7-32), the Golden Eagles (31-5) tied the 1975 Murray State squad for the longest winning streak in Ohio Valley Conference history.
Early in the contest, things were clicking for the home team, as the Bulldogs raced ahead to a 2-0 lead, the first deficit faced by the Golden Eagles since scoring three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning for an 8-7, walk-off victory against Jacksonville on Apr. 7.
Tech answered in the third, gathering its first hit of the contest with a single by center field Alex Junior. Putzig followed after a throwing error allowed Junior to advance to third, singling to left field for an RBI.
Alabama A&M took the run back in the bottom of the third, but the Golden Eagles once again had an answer. Senior Chase Chambers led off the top of the fourth with the first of six long balls by the Tech lineup, a solo shot to left field. It marked his 10th home run of the year, making him the fourth member of the Golden Eagles to hit the double-digit mark in dingers.
Another leadoff long ball in the fifth by senior Collin Harris, squared the contest at 3-3. Junior doubled to right center two batters later and dented the plate for the first TTU lead of the game on an RBI single up the middle by Putzig.
Refusing to go down without a fight, the Bulldogs retaliated with a four-spot in the bottom half, jumping back on top, 7-4. Keeping with the theme of the contest, however, the Golden Eagles again answered in kind.
For the third time in as many inning, a Tech batter led off with a moon shot. This time it was senior shortstop David Garza who unleashed the power, blasting his third wall-jumper in two days to left center field to open the sixth. Junior Nick Osborne made it back-to-back jacks with his sixth bomb of the year, also to left center field.
Following a pitching change, Collin Harris single on the second pitch he saw, keeping the momentum alive for catcher John Elford. The sophomore didn't disappoint, crushing a two-run line drive down the left field line and over the fence to make it an 8-7 game in favor of the visitors.
One last time, Alabama A&M mounted an offensive attack, loading the bases and scoring the tying, unearned run in the sixth. Tech hurler Seth Noel got out of the jam without further damage, gathering a strikeout with the bases juiced to end the frame. He would go on to pick up his first win of the season.
After a quick out in the seventh, Garza played hero for the Golden Eagles, crushing his fourth home run in two days to left center field for the eventual game-winning run. It marked the senior's 11th long ball of the year while his first dinger of the day made him the fifth Tech player to hit double figures in home runs on the year.
In need of a way to quiet a relatively potent offensive attack from the Bulldogs, head coach Matt Bragga turned to closer Ethan Roberts to start the bottom of the seventh. The right-hander dropped the hammer, striking out the side on just 12 pitches.
Roberts would need just 44 total offerings to close out the contest, finishing the final three innings while allowing just two hits. The Sparta, Tenn. native struck out seven batters in the contest while securing his eighth save of the season. More impressively, it also represented his 23rd career save, officially breaking the Tech program record set by Seth Lucio in 2014.
Tech plated three more runs in the contest to give Roberts some insurance, leading to the 12-8 victory. With 12 runs scored, the potent Tech lineup recorded its 19th game of the year scoring in double figures. In the contest, the Golden Eagles also lifted its staggering home run total on the year to a whopping 90 in just 36 games.
The Golden Eagles return to Cookeville Friday evening after five games on the road, playing host to Southern Illinois in a three-game series during the team's annual bye-week in OVC play. Game one of the series is set for a 6 p.m. CT start. Games two and three are schedule for 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.
All three games are slated to be broadcast live on the OVC Digital Network, with Dylan Vazzano delivering the call.
Photo by Tony Marable