By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech baseball team closed out its final contest at Quillen Field and Bush Stadium at the Averitt Express Baseball Complex in dramatic fashion Saturday afternoon, earning a series win thanks to a thrilling, 8-7, walk-off victory over Morehead State.
A contest featuring rain, tough defensive spots and six lead changes, it was the Golden Eagles (22-28, 9-18) who stayed resilient in the toughest of times. After carrying a 4-3 lead into the eighth, the visiting Eagles (33-19, 16-11) mounted a furious comeback to plate four, including a three-run home run, and take a 7-4 lead.
Morehead hurler Landon Weins, who entered in relief with no outs and a runner on in the seventh, shut down the Golden Eagles in order in the eighth, leaving Tech with just three outs to make a stand. Senior Zach Wilcox, who had surrendered the three-run dinger in the eighth, gave his team a chance by sitting down the Eagles in order in the top of the ninth.
His teammates showed their appreciation, turning in one of the more dramatic victories at the Quill in recent memory. It all started with junior Anthony Carrera, who worked the count full before singling through the right side to lead things off.
The Eagles recorded their first out of the inning, seemingly lowering Tech's chances even further, but it took two pitches to change all of that.
On the first offering following the out, freshman John Dyer uncorked a no-doubt, two-run blast down the left field line to pull the purple and gold within a single run. It marked his 11th dinger of the season and fourth of the contest. Not a single other player from either side recorded multiple hits in the game.
And if that wasn't enough, sophomore Jason Hinchman saved the best time of the game for his first hit of the contest. On the very next pitch from Weins, the Tech first baseman hammered his third long ball of the week to left center field, a no-doubter to tie the game at 7-7. The round tripper marked the youngster's 23 of the year, breaking a tie for the second most in a single season in program history.
Junior Gavin Johns took advantage of a quick, spot up rain shower and mistake by the Eagle defense in the next at bat, sending a fly ball towards the right field line on a 1-2 count. The Morehead right fielder dropped the ball, allowing Johns to reach third safely and put the winning run just 90 feet away.
Weins forced a hard ground ball to shortstop on his next offering, allowing the Eagles to collect the second out and keep the Tech runner on third. That brought freshman JD Funk to the plate.
The right fielder also saved his first hit of the game for the perfect situation. After looking at strike one, Funk blistered a single up the middle and just past the outstretched gloves of the Morehead middle infield, driving in the winning run for Tech's third walk-off victory of the year.
With the win, Tech clinched its third OVC series of the season and kept its postseason hopes alive. Before closing out the regular season with its final league series of the year at UT Martin next weekend, the Golden Eagles will head east for an in-state battle with the University of Tennessee on Tuesday.
Photo by Tony Marable