By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – It wasn't the vaunted offense that propelled the No. 21 Tennessee Tech baseball team to history Friday evening, but rather its pitching staff that carried the load. The Golden Eagles (32-5) shut out visiting Southern Illinois (20-18) in a 4-0 decision, breaking the Ohio Valley Conference record for consecutive wins along the way.
Tech extended the nation's longest winning streak to a whopping 23 straight games, receiving dominant efforts from two arms to clinch the team's fourth shutout of the season. Held without a home run for just the seventh game this season, the Golden Eagles showed just how good and complete of a team they are, gathering just a single extra base hit in the 4-0 win.
Senior hurler Travis Moths was simply spectacular after struggling a bit in the first frame. After walking two and allowing a hit in the first frame, the veteran settled into the mound, getting better and better each inning to earn his league-leading eighth victory of the season.
Moths tossed seven shutout innings in all, scattering three hits and three walks. The right-hander struck out nine on the night, tying his season-high mark for the second time. Looking his best in his final inning of work, Moths struck out the first two batters of the frame with extremely efficient breaking stuff before eventually forcing a pop up to second base.
Having broken the program record for career saves on Wednesday, closer Ethan Roberts took over things on the hill in the eighth with a chance to extend the record further. The junior did not disappoint, looking dominant in his two frames of work.
Roberts picked up his ninth save of the season while striking out the first five batters he faced. A weak fly ball to no man's land down the right field side broke the Sparta native's streak, but he quickly rebounded to force the game-ending fly out to right field two pitches later.
The Golden Eagles took advantage of some Saluki miscues to plate the eventual winning run. After seniors Chase Chambers and David Garza notched base hits in the second, junior Nick Osborne reached on a fielding error at second base to load the bases.
Senior Brennon Kaleiwahea followed by reaching on a fielding error at shortstop, driving in Chambers for a 1-0 lead. In the fourth, junior John Ham used a plethora of patience in the box and on the base paths to double the Tech lead. After drawing a seven-pitch walk, Ham reached second on a wild pitch with Garza at the plate.
He advanced to third on a swinging bunt ground out and then eventually crossed the plate on another wild pitch.
Looking for insurance in the seventh, it was Ham's patience again that paid dividends. With the bases loaded and two outs, second baseman fought off four pitches to eventually draw a nine-pitch, RBI walk to make it a 3-0 game in favor of the Golden Eagles. Alex Junior added the fourth run with an RBI single through the right side in the eighth, driving in Osborne who led off the frame with a double.
Tech will square off with the Salukis again on Saturday in a 2 p.m. CT tilt at Bush Stadium at the Averitt Express Baseball, looking to continue its historic run. Game three is set for a 1 p.m. first pitch on Sunday and both games will be live streamed on the OVC Digital Network with Dylan Vazzano on the call.
Photo by Tony Marable