By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
MARTIN, Tenn. – An early lead couldn't hold up for the Tennessee Tech baseball team Friday evening, as the Golden Eagles fell to in-state and Ohio Valley Conference rival UT Martin by a final score of 7-5 at Skyhawk Field.
With the loss, the Golden Eagles (22-31, 9-20) were officially eliminated from postseason contention with one game remaining in the regular season. Tech outhit the Skyhawks (23-29, 11-18) 8-7 in the contest, but one big inning provided enough for the home team to take the win.
On the night, All-American Kevin Strohschein carved out another piece of history for himself, this time at the national level. In the eighth inning, the senior slugger roped a one-out double down the right field line, marking his second hit of the night, 88th of the season, and most importantly, the 361st of his storied career.
NCAA CAREER HITS LIST
|1.||418||Phil Stephenson||Wichita State||1979-82|
|3.||385||Steve Stanley||Notre Dame||1999-02|
|4.||379||John Fishel||Cal State Fullerton||1982-85|
|5.||373||Jim Thomas||Wichita State||1979-82|
|6.||370||Jake Mangum||Mississippi State||2016-19|
|370||Tim Raley||Wichita State||1984-87|
|9.||366||Jake Weber||NC State||1995-98|
|10.||361||Kevin Strohschein||Tennessee Tech||2016-19|
A center fielder hailing from McDonough, Ga., and the OVC's all-time career leader in hits, doubles, home runs, RBI, at bats and total bases, Strohschein etched his name into the NCAA Division I top-10 career list for hits. Only nine other student-athletes, in the entire history of Division I baseball, have recorded more hits than the two-time OVC Player of the Year.
It was his first hit of the game, in the third inning, that the Golden Eagles saw a 2-0 lead, an advantage that would last until the fifth. Junior starter Mark Leonard held the Skyhawks without a hit through four innings, but things flipped in the blink of an eye.
UT Martin struck for six runs in the frame to take a 6-2 lead that would hold until the end of the contest. Sophomore first baseman Jason Hinchman tried to spark a rally in the sixth, blasting a mammoth, solo shot to left center field. It marked his 24th of the year, staying in a tie with Vanderbilt's JJ Bleday for the national lead.
The Skyhawks answered in the bottom half, to move it back to a four-run advantage. One last time, the Golden Eagles mounted a comeback bid, beginning with a leadoff double from redshirt freshman Nathan McMeans. Junior Gavin Johns drew a five-pitch walk and put the tying run on deck, but UT Martin would record a pair of outs.
Junior Cody Littlejohn ripped a double to right center field, driving in two runs to cut the deficit in half and bring the tying run to the plate. The Skyhawks held on in the end however, claiming the series victory.
Sophomore Tyler Sylvester tossed two innings without allowing a run to score. He also fanned two batters. Strohschein, Hinchman, McMeans and Littlejohn each recorded two hits to account for Tech's eight in the contest.
Tech's final contest of 2019 will take place Saturday afternoon with first pitch scheduled for 1:00 p.m. CT at Skyhawk Field.
Photo by Tony Marable