Tech baseball looks to win OVC title again in 2010

The Golden Eagle baseball team will begin its Ohio Valley Conference title defense next weekend when it opens the season at Georgia Southern. Picked third in the preseason poll, Tech will look to continue its consecutive 30-win seasons in pursuit of another OVC title.”We really like our depth,” Head Coach Matt Bragga said. “We return six position players and all but two of our pitchers from last season, and we feel like we had a pretty good pitching staff last year.”

The pitching staff will be led by pre-season All-OVC pick Lee Henry. After starting the season in the bullpen, Henry was instrumental in an undefeated OVC title run, winning two tournament games. He finished the year with a 9-3 record, a 3.43 E.R.A., and he led the team with five complete games.

“Lee is such a great guy to have on your team and on the mound,” Bragga said. “He’s got great stuff and is a competitor. We’re really happy he made the preseason all-conference team.”

Henry said the team is excited about the season. “We’re anxious to get out there,” he said. “We wanna get to where we were last year and exceed that. We just gotta keep our minds focused on what we have to do out there day in and day out.”

The return of Adam Liberatore and Jared Dobbs from injury will add depth to the deepest staff in the OVC. Liberatore was 2-0 with 21 strikeouts in 17 innings last year before having season-ending surgery. Dobbs was 1-1 with 15 strikeouts in 14 innings before shutting down due to injury.

Junior A.J. Kirby-Jones, the MVP of last year’s OVC tournament, will lead the offense after hitting a school record 20 home runs last season.

“AJ is a great player,” said Bragga. “As long as I’ve coached the game I’m not sure that I’ve ever coached anyone better. He’s got such a level head, and his mentality and approach to the game are unbelievable.”

Junior Chad Oberacker and sophomore Ben Burgess will also look to make big contributions after starting every game last season. Oberacker led the Golden Eagles with a .354 batting average.

The Golden Eagles’ home opener is Feb. 26-28 against Cleveland State. This year’s schedule includes non-conference contests at Southeastern Conference powers Vanderbilt and Tennessee, as well as trips to South Alabama, Memphis and the season opener at Georgia Southern.

In addition to Cleveland State, the University of Buffalo, SIU-Edwardsville and Bradley will visit Cookeville for weekend series. Tech has home-and-home contests against Middle Tennessee State, Belmont, Lipscomb and East Tennessee State. The OVC schedule starts Apr. 2.

The 2010 OVC baseball tournament will be in Jackson, Tenn. for the first time ever, May 26-30 at Pringles Park. The top six teams qualify for the tournament. Last season, Tech was the first No. 5-seed to win the OVC tournament.