By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
OXFORD, Ala. – The Ohio Valley Conference's Pitcher of the Year and Player of the Year each played the part for the No. 18 Tennessee Tech baseball team Thursday afternoon, propelling the Golden Eagles (47-7) to a 5-2 victory over Jacksonville State (31-24) on the second day of the league's postseason tournament at Choccolocco Park.
Senior hurler Travis Moths, named the OVC's Pitcher of the Year on Tuesday, tossed was brilliant for the purple and gold, covering seven and one third innings while scattering four hits and a walk. He held the Gamecocks scoreless through the first seven frames before eventually conceding one unearned run following his departure in the eighth inning.
The right-hander struck out eight Jacksonville State batters in the contest, capturing his 13th victory of the year to break the Golden Eagle program's single-season record. He set the career-wins record for the program last week with a win at Morehead State. Moths is now tied for the national lead in wins with Oregon State's Luke Heimlich.
It was the OVC Player of the Year, Kevin Strohschein, providing the damage for nation's top offensive unit in the victory, as the team's designated hitter finished a whopping 4-for-4 with four of the team's five RBI.
In the third, the junior broke a scoreless tie by ripping a single to left field and driving in Alex Junior. He followed that up with the swing of the contest in the fifth.
Catcher Brennon Kaleiwahea led off the frame with a base knock to center field. Collin Harris reached on fielder's choice for the first out of the inning. Jacksonville State starter Derrick Adams then gathered a strike out for the second out. Harris moved to second on a wild pitch with senior Trevor Putzig at the dish.
With a runner on second, Putzig watched the next two offerings miss their mark, bringing Strohschein to the plate with two runners on and two outs.
After watching a pitch, the slugger just missed the next opportunity, fouling one off for a 1-1 count. Strohschein would not miss the next one, launching the ball clear over the fence in right field for a three-run home run and a 4-0 lead. It marked his 17th long ball of the year.
Junior righty-hander Ethan Roberts completed the final one and two thirds innings of the contest, allowing a walk, two hits and one run. He worked fantastically out of a bases-loaded jam and no outs in the ninth, surrendering just the one run along the way. The Sparta, Tenn. native induced a ground ball to second that Ham turned into a double play by tagging the baserunner headed his way, spinning and firing the ball to first for the second out.
Roberts then needed just four pitches to whiff the final batter of the contest and preserve the victory. It marked the team's 47th win of the year, tying the OVC single-season record held by Western Kentucky (1980) and Austin Peay (2013).
The Golden Eagles will next play Friday morning at 11 a.m. CT against the winner between No. 2 seeded Southeast Missouri and No. 3 Morehead State for the chance to advance to the tournament's championship game.
Photo by Thomas Corhern