By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech baseball team earned a split in its Ohio Valley Conference doubleheader Saturday, winning the first contest against Murray State 10-4 before falling in the series finale later in the evening, 14-7.
The Golden Eagles (12-17, 3-12) took control early and never looked back in game one, snapping a 10-game skid in league play. In the top of the first, Tech struck for four runs for a 4-0 lead.
All-American Kevin Strohschein kicked off the offense, singling to center field with one out on the first pitch he saw. After Murray State (13-16, 8-4) recorded its second out of the frame and Strohschein stole second base, freshman John Dyer singled to right field, driving in the first run of the game. Fellow rookie Jason Hogan drew a walk, setting up UCLA transfer Gavin Johns for some fireworks. The junior catcher delivered, hammering a three-run moon shot to right center field.
The Racers got two runs back in the fourth, but in the fifth, the Golden Eagles struck again. Strohschein was at the forefront of the damage again, leading off the inning with a triple to right center field. In the next at bat, sophomore Jason Hinchman continued his tear on the year, crushing a two-run bomb to right center field for his OVC-leading 13th long ball of the season for a 6-2 lead.
In the sixth, shortstop Hunter Higdon made it a 7-2 lead, smashing his own dinger down the right field line. Solo runs in the seventh and eighth brought Murray State within three runs, but Tech took all three back in the eighth.
With runners on the corners and one out, Strohschein struck again, lacing a ground-rule double to right center field to drive in a run. The Racers elected to intentionally walk Hinchman to load the bases and set up a double play, but the defense backfired as a throwing error allowed two more runs to cross the plate.
In game two of the day, the Golden Eagles seemed destined for victory after completing an improbable comeback. Trailing 6-0 in the third, Tech took back a run in the third with a bases-loaded walk drawn by Gavin Johns.
The purple and gold snagged another one in the sixth, with none other than Strohschein showing off again. The senior center fielder clobbered a 1-0 offering so flush, it cleared the batter's eye in center field for his fifth home run of the year.
Tech's comeback became reality in the seventh, starting with an RBI single from second baseman Nathan McMeans. The redshirt freshman's base hit to left center field came with one out and kept the bases loaded for the next batter, Cody Littlejohn.
The junior third baseman fell behind in the count, 0-2, looking at the first pitch for a strike and swinging and missing second. He certainly had no trouble with the third look of the inning. Instead, he deposited the Racer offering onto Tech Softball Field beyond right field for a go-ahead grand slam, the third of his career.
Murray State quickly flipped the script in the eighth, however, retaking the lead with a two-run home run. The Racers would go on to add a pair of insurance runs in the eighth and four more in the ninth.
Right-handed hurler Jacob Parham picked up the win in the first game, tossing one and a third innings of relief without allowing a hit or run. Mark Leonard struck out five batters without a walk in his start, finishing the first three and two thirds innings of the game.
Strohschein finished the entire day an impressive 6-for-9 with four runs scored and a pair of RBI. Johns drove in four runs during the doubleheader, as did Littlejohn with his grand slam.
During the day, Strohschein broke two ties at the top of Tech's career records list, becoming the program's sole leader in both doubles and runs scored. His 61 career two-baggers ranks sixth in OVC history, just seven shy of the league record. His 209 runs scored in four seasons now ranks tied for third in OVC history.
He also moved into a tie for second place in league history in career home runs, needing just 11 to break the record of former Golden Eagle Zach Stephens (2016-19).
The Golden Eagles will return to action Tuesday, Apr. 9, with a home contest against North Alabama. First pitch is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. CT at Quillen Field and Bush Stadium at the Averitt Express Baseball Complex.
Photo by Thomas Corhern