By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – It was a pair of close, down-to-the-wire contests at Quillen Field Friday, as the Tennessee Tech and Central Arkansas baseball teams split their series-opening doubleheader.
Game one of Friday's action featured a pitcher's duel, with Central Arkansas' Cody Davenport dominating early on as the Bears (16-19) took a 2-0 lead into the seventh. Things changed quickly, however, as the Golden Eagle bats came up clutch while the Tech pitching staff kept its strong performance in tact.
In the bottom of the seventh, shortstop Hunter Higdon led things off by reaching on a fielding error. Back-to-back fielder's choices kept a runner on first, but provided a pair of outs with junior Anthony Carrera coming to the plate.
The left fielder fell behind 1-2 in the count, just one strike from ending the frame and Tech's best chance of scoring in the contest. Carrera had other ideas, however, crushing the next pitch over the wall in left field, tying things at 2-2. It marked his eighth long ball of the year.
Both sides traded zeroes in the eighth and Tech (14-18) held the Bears off the scoreboard in the top half of the ninth. UCA gathered two quick outs, looking destined to force extra innings.
Instead, sophomore slugger Jason Hinchman provided the biggest swing of his young career. Working an eight-pitch at-bat, the first baseman uncorked a mammoth blast to left center field, a no-doubt, walk-off dinger to send the Tech dugout into a frenzy as they met him at home plate to celebrate the win.
Also key contributors to the Golden Eagle win were Andrew O'Dwyer and Jacob Cole, who held UCA to just four hits and two runs in the contest. A senior southpaw, O'Dwyer covered the first four innings of the contest, allowing two hits and one earned run while punching out a Tech career-high six batters.
A junior college transfer, Cole tossed the final five frames, also allowing just two hits and single run. The right-hander earned his second win of the season while fanning six Bear hitters.
Game two started much in the same way as game one, with the pitching staffs trading goose eggs through the first three frames. In the fourth, the Golden Eagles blasted some more fireworks.
All-American Kevin Strohschein lifted a pitch the other way, blistering a missile to right field for a solo shot and 1-0 Tech lead. Hinchman made it back-to-back blasts three pitches later, despite falling behind in the count 0-2. It marked his Ohio Valley Conference-leading 15th of the year.
In the fifth, Strohschein was back at it again, crushing a two-run shot to left field for his eighth home run of the season. The Bears answered with a three-spot in the sixth, trimming the Tech advantage to two.
Hunter Higdon got on board the round-tripper train in the seventh, hammering a two-run jack job to right center field for his second of the year and a 7-3 lead. Central Arkansas took advantage of a Golden Eagle miscue in the eighth, tying the game at 7-7 with four runs, including two unearned.
The contest would head into an extra frame, with the Bears scoring twice in the top of the tenth on another Tech error to even the series.
The third and final game of the series will take place on Saturday at Bush Stadium at the Averitt Express Baseball Complex. First pitch was moved up to a 1:00 p.m. CT start due to inclement weather expected in the area.
Photo by Tony Marable