Tech (18-20, 4-5) will look to start a new winning streak in a huge three-game Ohio Valley Conference series against Morehead State University (22-17, 5-4) this weekend at Bush Stadium. “This is when the season starts getting really fun,” Head Coach Matt Bragga said. “Morehead’s a good team; it should make for an exciting weekend.
Saturday will feature a double header beginning at 1 p.m. Seniors are expected to get the start for the Golden Eagles. In the first game, Adam Liberatore will take the hill for Tech, and pre-season all-OVC selection Lee Henry will take the mound in the second. Sunday’s matchup is scheduled for 1 p.m., freshman Tristan Archer will take the mound for Tech.
Juniors have set the tone at the plate for Tech. A.J. Kirby-Jones continues to lead the nation in home runs with 18, third in walks with 43 and is tied for sixth in RBIs with 55. Chad Oberacker leads the country in total number of hits with 71 and is 13th in average, hitting a red-hot .446. Morehead State currently leads the nation as a team in home runs hit (all stats thru last Sunday, April 18).
“I’m just glad to be having a really good year,” Oberacker said. “I had a great summer last year, and Coach told me to keep hitting it like I have been when he moved me to the clean-up spot and it’s worked.”
The Golden Eagles swept OVC foe Eastern Illinois University Panthers last weekend before losing last Tuesday night to Middle Tennessee State University. Tech’s pitchers shutdown their conference rivals allowing the Panthers to score in only one inning all weekend.
EIU’s offense was completely dismantled on Saturday by a pair of complete game shutouts thrown by Liberatore and Henry. Liberatore went nine innings striking out 12 and scattering only eight hits for his fourth win of the season. It was his first complete game of the season.
“It was a great day for me and Lee both and it was really nice for us to go out and pick it up the win,” Liberatore said. “The offense has won us a couple games this year. I was just trying to get outs, but they just weren’t hitting me.”
Henry threw a three-hitter and struck out nine en route to his second victory. It was also his first complete game of the year.
“It was a lot of fun getting after it,” Henry said. “I’m just doing my thing out there and allowing God to work through me.”
Liberatore and Henry were named co-pitchers of the week in the OVC for their dominant performances. Henry currently leads the OVC in strikeouts and opponent batting average and is second in ERA.
“It’s nice to lead the conference, but those are just category titles,” Henry said. “I’m just excited to get out there again this weekend, it’s what I love to do.”
Sunday, the Panthers jumped out to an early 5-0 lead in the first inning off starter Nick Price. Chason Choate and Stephen Pryor then held EIU to only two base runners over the final eight innings.
The offense found its stride in the fifth inning with a couple of bases-loaded walks by Tate McMillan and Oberacker to cut the lead to three. An RBI by Ben Burgess in the eighth made it a two-run game and set the stage for the final inning.
Freshman Zephan Guyear got things started with a one-out single to left field in the bottom of the ninth. McMillan quickly took the second pitch he saw right back up the middle to set the stage for Tech’s all-time total bases leader, Kirby-Jones. A wild pitch moved both the runners forward 90 feet and fearing the worst, EIU intentionally walked the Tech slugger. Oberacker then laced the first pitch he saw back up the middle for a dramatic walk-off Golden Eagle victory.
“They were starting everyone off with a first-pitch changeup, so I was looking for it and luckily it dropped in for a hit,” Oberacker said. “It was a really big win. We really needed it. Hopefully we will sweep Morehead too, we lost two of three to these guys last year and it left a really bitter taste in our mouths. All we have to do is play like we did this last weekend.”
Tech lost to MTSU on Tuesday. The Blue Raiders busted open a 6-5 game with four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. MTSU added one more run in the 11-5 final. The bottom part of the Blue Raiders lineup did most of the damage as the five, six, and seven hitters accounted for seven RBIs.
“We didn’t play our best,” Bragga said. “Unfortunately when that happens against a good team like Middle, you get a bit unfocused.”
Burgess and Casanova Donaldson each had two RBIs in the loss. The loss ended Tech’s season-long five game winning streak.
Fans, don’t forget to come out to Bush Stadium this weekend and cheer on your Golden Eagles. Admission to every Tech home baseball game is free. You can also follow the action live on the internet with livestats at http://www.ttusports.com.