After going 3-0 and winning the Austin Regional, Texas Baseball will now prepare to welcome Tennessee Tech to Austin for a Super Regional. The #2 seed Golden Eagles were the winners of the Oxford Regional after winning 3 straight elimination games, including two on Monday against Ole Miss. Tennessee Tech ended the regular season with a RPI of 23, just one spot behind Texas. With game 1 of the best-of-three series just 4 days away, let’s take a look at what to expect from the Golden Eagles.
Tennessee Tech (52-10)
Now would probably be a good time to mention the Golden Eagles lead the nation in hitting. Tennessee Tech ranks #1 in the country in batting average (.342), hits (723), home runs (128) and runs scored (596). All 9 starters for the Golden Eagles have batting averages at .310 or above, with 3 boasting averages above .375. 7 of the 9 starters have double digit home run totals.
The offense is led by 1B Chase Chambers, who is hitting a ridiculous .404 with 17 home runs and 82 RBI’s. Chambers has an on-base percentage of .508. He is joined in the middle of the lineup by DH Kevin Strohschein, who leads the team in home runs with 18 and is hitting .386 with 67 RBI’s.
CF Alex Junior (.318, 7 HR, 35 RBI’s) serves as the leadoff hitter and has scored a team leading 80 runs. Even the Golden Eagles 9-hole, LF Collin Harris, is hitting .319 with 10 home runs and a team leading 9 stolen bases.
A lot of people may point to the Ohio Valley Conference and say Tennessee Tech’s stats are inflated because of the quality of teams they played, but make no mistake about it, the Golden Eagles can swing the bat.
While Tennessee Tech is known mainly for their bats, the Golden Eagles have several intriguing arms on the mound. RHP Travis Moths (13-2, 3.86 ERA, 104 SO) is the ace of the staff and will likely take the ball on Saturday afternoon. Moths was the 2018 Ohio Valley Conference Pitcher of the Year, and his numbers speak for themselves. Moths started the Oxford Regional opener against Missouri State last Saturay (5.2 IP, 2 H, 4 ER, 8 K), then threw in relief in both of Tennessee Tech’s victories over Ole Miss on Monday. Moths fastball touched 94 when he was throwing in relief, but he will likely sit low 90’s with his fastball as a starter. The 7th round pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks also has a plus changeup. The Golden Eagles number two starter for most of the season was RHP Marcus Evey (7-0, 4.26 ERA, 86 SO). Similar to Moths, Evey has a fastball that can reach into the mid-90’s, but he will sit around 91-92. #3 starter Alex Hursey (8-4, 4.52 ERA, 45 SO) threw a complete game against Missouri State in an elimination game during the Oxford Regional (9 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 5 K). The left-hander does not rack up the strikeouts and will not light up the radar gun, but he does an excellent job of limiting walks (25 in 73.2 innings) and pitching efficiently.
The biggest weapon on the Golden Eagles pitching staff is RHP Ethan Roberts (6-1, 2.41 ERA, 96 SO), who was just drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 4th round, becoming the highest selection in Tennessee Tech history. Roberts has served as the teams closer, racking up 14 saves. What is unique about Roberts is he has thrown 71 innings, which is a starters-like workload. He has one start on the season, and it came Monday afternoon in the first of two games against Ole Miss. Roberts threw 7.2 innings, allowing 4 runs on 6 hits and striking out 4. This start came just 2 days after he closed out Tennessee Tech’s regional opening win against Missouri State by throwing 3.1 innings of scoreless relief with 7 strikeouts. Roberts sits in the low 90’s with his fastball, but offers a variety of offspeed pitches and has great command of all his pitches.
Aside from their 3 starters and Roberts, Tennessee Tech is suspect in terms of bullpen depth, which explains why Moths and Roberts both started and relieved games during the Oxford Regional. RHP Nick Osborne (2-0, 6.30 ERA, 22 SO) threw 3 scoreless innings to record the final 9 outs of Monday’s Regional Championship game. RHP Colton Provey (0-0, 4.86 ERA, 46 SO) is another bullpen option. Provey allowed 3 runs in 3.1 innings in Sunday’s winner bracket game against Ole Miss.
Tennessee Tech did not win 52 games by accident. The Golden Eagles are a quality team and it is shaping up to be a fun Super Regional in Austin. The biggest question for the Golden Eagles from a pitching standpoint will be how to utilize Ethan Roberts. Could Roberts be in the bullpen for game 1 and then possibly be available for a game 3 start on Monday? The key for Texas will be getting to the Tennessee Tech bullpen. If the Longhorns are able to knock out the Golden Eagles starters early, they would have a huge advantage.
Offensively, Tennessee Tech is going to bring their style of baseball to the Disch. They don’t play small ball or steal a lot of bases, but they will try to put balls in the gaps and over the fence. Texas starting pitchers will need to have a repeat performance from last weekend in terms of limiting walks, or else the Golden Eagles will make them pay. The pitching friendly environment of Disch-Falk Field should help the ball stay in the yard, but Nolan Kingham, Chase Shugart and Blair Henley will need to rely heavily on the ground ball to help keep the potent Tennessee Tech offense in check.
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