Big defensive play leads Tennessee Tech past No. 3 Vanderbilt
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Clinging to a one-run lead with the bases loaded against No. 3 ranked Vanderbilt (33-5, 14-1), Tennessee Tech put a cap on the biggest victory in program history in the most appropriate fashion, turning a 4-6-3 double play to down the Commodores 10-9.
The Golden Eagles (27-10, 15-3) used their most consistent skill to their advantage in what stands as a landmark win for the program. The defense, which is on pace to shatter the TTU single-season record for fielding percentage with a .978 mark, was as clutch as clutch can be. The Tech squad turned four double plays against Vanderbilt, denying several good scoring opportunities late in the game.
Tech did what it has done so often this season on the road; picked up the lead right off the bat and held on all the way through the contest.
Second baseman Zach Zarzour reached base to start the contest, getting hit by the second pitch of the game. After two quick outs, Brandon Thomasson smacked a double down the left field line to put runners on second and third. Junior Daniel Miles singled up the middle in the next at bat, driving in both Zarzour and Thomasson to give the Golden Eagles a 2-0 lead over an opponent that had lost just two games at home all season.
In the second inning, the Golden Eagles found themselves crossing the plate again. Senior Michael Morris singled to start the inning and, after one out, Jordan Parris also collected a single, advancing Morris to third. Zarzour walked on four straight pitches to load the sacks for Austin Wulf. The senior outfielder collected a base hit through the right side, driving in a runner to give Tech a 3-0 lead. Thomasson hammered a line shot that only missed clearing the bases after a web-gem of a catch by Xavier Turner.
After Tech starter Garrett Baugh tossed his second inning of no-hit ball against a .312 hitting team, the Golden Eagles expanded their lead once again, putting up a three-spot in the top of the third behind patient at-bats from catcher Jordan Parris, left fielder James Abraham, center fielder Wulf, and first baseman Zach Stephens. Parris, Abraham, and Wulf all earned walks while Stephens was hit by a pitch. Wulf and Stephens each grabbed RBI as well, along with Zarzour who beat out an infield single with the bases loaded. The Golden Eagles now led 6-0 over a team on a program-best 14-game winning streak.
Vanderbilt finally got involved offensively in the bottom of the third, scoring three runs behind a solo home run by Rhett Wiseman and a few singles to cut the lead in half headed to the fourth inning. The Commodores picked up two more runs in the fourth, as Wiseman connected on his second long ball of the game, this time driving in two runs.
With just a one-run lead, the Golden Eagles decided to liven up the game after a scoreless fifth, striking twice in the sixth to give a little cushion to its advantage. After two outs, Morris cracked a single to right field, driving in a run. With a long throw headed toward home, the senior outfielder sprinted towards second base, forcing pitcher Jared Miller to make an errant throw in attempt to throw him out. Bosheers was able to score on the error to give Tech an 8-5 lead headed to the bottom of the sixth.
The Golden Eagles held the Commodores scoreless in the bottom half of the sixth and came up with perhaps the turning point of the game in the seventh. After Vanderbilt loaded the bases with no outs, Tech called upon sophomore pitcher David Hess for relief. The righty forced Tony Kemp, who was batting over .400 entering the contest, to drill a hard ground ball down the first base line. Stephens made an incredible play on the ball, lunging for a snow cone-like grab, stepping on first base and firing the ball to catcher Jordan Parris to nail the runner headed for home plate. The double play allowed the Golden Eagles to escape the inning with just one run allowed.
Two-out scoring practically became the theme of the Golden Eagle attack as the squad grabbed two more clutch runs in the top of the eighth. Miles accepted a four-pitch walk and immediately stole second base to set up Dylan Bosheers for an RBI double, the sophomore's team-leading 14th of the season. Morris wrapped up the scoring for Tech, blooping a single to center field and driving in the eventual game-winning run.
Closer Seth Lucio came aboard with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning with runners on first and second and a run already scored on a towering home run ball by Vandy clean-up hitter Connor Harrell. The sophomore stumbled a little, hitting the first batter he faced to load the bases. He settled a little to strike out his next opponent to give Tech two outs. Lucio was then called for a balk, advancing all runners one base and giving the Commodores a run. He forced the final batter of the inning to fly out to take a 10-8 lead to the ninth.
No great game is without some sort of drama, and this contest was no exception. After recording a quick out to open the bottom of the ninth, Lucio walked the next two batters. Harrell then singled up the middle, driving in a runner to bring Vanderbilt within just one run of extra innings. Lucio then hit the next batter, a hooking breaking ball that barely caught the foot of Mike Yastrzemski. With the bases loaded, the sophomore closer turned to a defense that had been so good all season long, inducing a ground ball to Zarzour, who flipped it to Bosheers for out number two, who then fired it to Stephens to record out number three and send the Golden Eagle dugout into a frenzy of celebration as the upset was complete.
David Hess earned the win in the contest, allowing just one hit in an inning of work. Starter Tyler Ferguson took his first loss of the season, just the fifth of the year for the Commodore squad.
Michael Morris led the Golden Eagle offense on the historic day, going 3-for-5 with two RBI. Also a large part of the offense were Jordan Parris, who went 1-of-2 with three walks, and Dylan Bosheers, who collected three hits and an RBI while scoring three runs.
Lucio recorded his ninth save of the season, a single-season program record, leaving him just three saves shy of the career record at Tech.
The win over Vanderbilt marked the first for the Golden Eagles over a ranked opponent since the 2009 season when they defeated No. 14 Alabama in the NCAA Tournament Regional. With Vanderbilt holding a No. 2 ranking, the win also marked the highest ranked opponent the baseball team has ever defeated.
The Golden Eagles will return to the diamond on Friday when they travel to Jacksonville State for a huge Ohio Valley Conference series over the weekend. The Gamecocks rank third in the OVC, just a few percentage points behind the Tech team. Jacksonville State is 20-16 overall and 12-3 in league play.