By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
JACKSONVILLE, Ala. – It was a heartbreaker for the Tennessee Tech baseball team Sunday afternoon, as Jacksonville State rallied with two runs in the ninth for a walk-off win over the Golden Eagles in their Ohio Valley Conference series finale.
Much like Saturday's contest, the Golden Eagles (11-15, 2-10) were hot early and often offensively, providing leads of 4-0 and 7-3 over the Gamecocks (14-14, 6-3) in the third and the fourth, respectively.
Remaining hot as a campfire in July, All-American Kevin Strohschein kicked off the day with a two-out single to left field. Two batters and a wild pitch later, freshman John Dyer drove him home from second, giving Tech a 1-0 lead.
In the third, the heart of Tech's order went back to work. With one out, junior Anthony Carrera single to left field. Strohschein then drew a four-pitch walk, setting up sophomore Jason Hinchman for some fireworks. The first baseman turned on the first pitch he saw and deposited over the left field wall for his 11th home run of the season. The blast gave Tech a 4-0 lead early.
Jacksonville State responded in the bottom half, scoring three times to pull within a solo run. Tech had its own answer in the fourth, with the heart of the Golden Eagle lineup yet again at the center of the damage.
Third baseman Cody Littlejohn led off the frame with an infield single to shortstop and two batters later, Carrera pulled a single to right field. Next up for the purple and gold, Strohschein gathered his second hit of the game, flicking a single to right field to drive in a run. Hinchman sent a swing to right field, scoring a second run on a sacrifice fly.
With two outs now in the inning, Dyer came up clutch, lacing an RBI triple to right field to make it a 7-3 Golden Eagle lead. The Gamecocks scratched across a pair in the fourth, trimming the Tech advantage to two, but the Golden Eagles were able to hold them silent for the next two frames.
JSU broke that silence in the seventh, scoring once before Tech shut the threat down to preserve a 7-6 advantage heading into the ninth. Jacksonville State stunned the Golden Eagles in the bottom of the ninth, blasting back-to-back long balls to lead off the inning and provide a walk-off, 8-7 win.
Strohschein ended his spectacular series 3-for-4 with an RBI and three runs scored. For the weekend, the senior rack up 10 hits in 13 at bats for a .769 average, scored six runs, drove in five more and rack up a pair of doubles and pair of dingers. He also walked three times for an .813 on base percentage and slugged 1.385 in three games.
With his third straight fantastic showing, Strohschein tied two program records on the day, record his 60th career double to match the 60 of former Golden Eagle shortstop Dylan Bosheers (2012-15). He also tied his former teammate, All-American Chase Chambers (2015-18), for the all-time Tech lead in runs scored with 205 in four years.
Hinchman led the Tech offense on the day with four RBI and a run scored. Dyer finished the contest 3-for-4 with a pair of RBI while shortstop Hunter Higdon snagged a double and a single as part of a 2-for-3 day.
Ty King tossed two innings without allowing a hit to start the contest. Sophomore Tyler Sylvester took Tech through two and third frames without allowing a run, scattering one base runner. Right-hander Tony Curry covered two thirds of an inning with just a single hit allowed and no runs.
The Golden Eagles will return to action Friday, Apr. 5, kicking off a three-game, OVC series against Murray State with a 6:00 p.m. CT contest at Quillen Field and Bush Stadium at the Averitt Express Baseball Complex.
Photo by Tony Marable