KODAK, Tenn. — The stars aligned and midweek baseball did not disappoint Tuesday evening, as the Tennessee Tech baseball team delivered one of the most impressive wins in program history by taking down No. 1 nationally-ranked Tennessee by a final score of 3-2.
Competing in a wood-bat contest at Smokies Stadium, the home of the Tennessee Smokies, the Double-A Minor League affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, the Golden Eagles overcame early adversity, from a pair of relatively unlikely heroes coming into the contest. In the process of picking up the school's first victory over a No. 1 team in any sport, Tech also snapped the Vols' 23-game winning streak, the nation's longest, and handed Tennessee just its second loss of the season.
🚨 DOWN GOES NO. 1 🚨@TNTech_Baseball upsets No. 1 Tennessee, 3-2!! The win was Tennessee Tech's first win over a No.1 ranked team in school history. The win also snaps the nation's longest winning streak.#NCAABaseball x 🎥 @11point7 pic.twitter.com/oPCDzHSZnR— NCAA Baseball (@NCAABaseball) April 13, 2022
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Right out of the gate, the purple and gold look like it would have its hands full with one of the top pitching staffs in the nation, with the first five Golden Eagles being set down on strikes. In fact, it took four and two-thirds frames for the Tech squad to secure its first hit of the night.
What kept the Cookeville crew in the contest early was a very solid start from southpaw Brock Smith, who allowed just two runs, and one earned, over the opening three and one-third innings. The junior struck out four Vol batters and allowed just four hits and while working around five walks.
The nation's consensus No. 1 team took control of the scoreboard in the third, gathering a hit and walk to set up an RBI single for Drew Gilbert through the left side. Later in the frame, the Vols made it a 2-0 lead, scoring a fielding error at third base.
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Tennessee threatened to increase that advantage in the fourth, putting a pair of runners on with one out to force Tech head coach Matt Bragga to go to his bullpen. In stepped the biggest hero of the night for the Golden Eagles, with Carter Gannaway taking over on the mound and using just three pitches to record the final two outs of the frame.
The purple and gold responded to the clutch entry of its reliever by providing a little help on the scoreboard, finally breaking through with a pair of outs in the fifth. Designated hitter Hayden Gilliland ripped a single off the foot of UT hurler Wyatt Evans to snap the no-hit bid.
Catcher Will Long followed two pitches later with a base knock to right field. Following a pitching change for the Vols, second baseman Noah Hattier came through with Tech's third-straight base hit, an infield crack to third base that drove in the team's first run of the game.
With Gannaway back out on the hill in the fifth for the purple and gold, the right-hander really began to settle in and set the stage for his best performance as a Golden Eagle. He set the nation's number one offense down in order, collecting his first punch-out of the night to end the frame.
The Tech bats continued to back its hurler in the scoring column in the sixth, delivering the big blow from the game's second superhero showing of the night. With the country's hardest throwing pitcher taking over for the Vols in Ben Joyce, who constantly breaks 100 miles per hour with his fastball, the Golden Eagles learned from the first two at-bats of the frame, both strikeouts.
With two outs, left fielder Jason Hinchman simply ambushed the first pitch he saw, peppering a single up the middle to keep the inning alive. In stepped Tech's caped crusader, right fielder Eric Newsom. Despite falling behind in the count 0-2, and batting under .250 in limited action this season, the slugger calmly continued with his approach and blasted a triple-digit fastball to center field, easily clearing the wall for a go-ahead, two-run home run.
It marked his second round-tripper of the year and just the second long ball that Joyce had surrendered this season. The two runs also represented the first two earned runs given up by the Vol reliever on the year.
Now with a lead securely in his back pocket, Gannaway started to dominate on the mound. In the bottom half of the sixth, he struck out the side with a trio of K's of the swinging variety. He chalked up two more punchies in the seventh, making it 11 straight Vols retired in a row to start his night.
Tennessee finally earned a baserunner off the sophomore hurler in the eighth, with Gilbert drawing a lead-off walk. After a fielder's choice, Luc Lipcius made it two Vols to collect a free pass. Gannaway responded by fanning his seventh batter of the evening and forcing a fly out to center field to escape the threat.
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Headed back out for the ninth, Gannaway's career night culminated in one more perfect inning, creating a storybook end for the purple and gold. The right-hander came into the evening scuffling as of late, seeing his season ERA rise to 9.00 after struggling with his command over the past four outings.
Those struggles seemed a thing of the past, as the Tech reliever racked up two more strikeouts to start the ninth. He then forced a ground ball to Tech third baseman Gabe Lacy, who made a clean throw to Golston Gillespie at first for the final out.
Delivering the best pitching performance of his career, Gannaway completed the final five and two-thirds frames to pick up his third win of the year. He did so without allowing a hit to the nation's top offense and while tallying a career-high-shattering nine punch-outs.The win marked the third win by an Ohio Valley Conference team over a No. 1-ranked opponent in the last four seasons, joining Morehead State's 5-2 victory over Louisville (Mar. 2, 2021) and Austin Peay's 7-6 win over Vanderbilt (Feb. 27, 2019). It also marked Tech's first win over a national-ranked foe since capturing a 5-4 victory to open the 2018 Super Regional at No. 5 Texas.
The Golden Eagles will return home to Cookeville for an early weekend against OVC rival Southeast Missouri, hosting the Redhawks Thursday through Saturday at Quillen Field and Bush Stadium at the Averitt Express Baseball Complex. Thursday's and Friday's tilts will feature 6:00 p.m. CT starts while Saturday's finale will kick off at 1:00 p.m.