Tennessee Tech heads to Austin as one of the hottest teams in the country. Not only have they won a staggering 52 games this season, they just knocked off No. 4 Ole Miss in Oxford to get to this point. Two of the three games the Golden Eagles played were filled with their power hitting style of baseball. The third, and regional clincher, was in a pitcher’s duel.
The Ohio Valley Conference isn’t a very good baseball conference, so it makes sense that TTU cruised through it. Tennessee Tech was one of the two teams in the OVC who had a RPI in the top 100. Only four teams reached the 30 win mark. Three teams didn’t reach 20 wins.
With that in mind, most of that can be thrown out the window at this point. The Golden Eagles are a hot team and a team that has been hitting well during that hots streak.
In three games with the Rebels, the Golden Eagles chased two of Ole Miss’ weekend starters from games early. These performances in the regional round showed they could back up their gaudy offensive numbers.
TTU leads the nation in five different offensive categories; batting average (.338), home runs per game (2.16), runs per game (10.2), on base percentage (.434), and slugging (.589). They home ballpark in Cookeville, TN does have hitter-friendly dimensions, but they’ve been able to hit wherever they have played ball this year.
The Golden Eagles have nine players with more than 50 games batting over .300 and slugging over .471. Four players, Kevin Strohschein, Chase Chambers, Trevor Putzig, and David Garza, have more than 16 home runs.
While hitting is the team strength, relief pitching appears to be the team weakness.
Only two pitchers with double digit appearances, Ethan Roberts and Travis Moths, have ERAs of less than 4.00. Moths likely will be the starting pitcher the Longhorns on Saturday. Roberts will come out of the bullpen in a close game.
Tennessee Tech’s second option looks to be Marcus Evey. He’s 7-0 with a 4.26 ERA and an opponent’s average of .239.
The starting pitching is serviceable, but without the hard-hitting Golden Eagle offense, TTU would look a lot different. Team ERA is 4.91, compared to the Longhorns 4.17. TTU has given up 72 home runs this year, while a Texas staff helped by Disch-Falk Field’s dimensions only surrendered 40.
Against Power 5 opponents, Tennessee Tech posted a 6-1 record. Two of those wins came at home in the midweek against West Virginia, while the other two midweek wins were at Vanderbilt and Tennessee. The remaining three games were played in the Oxford regional.
As mentioned earlier, TTU probably didn’t face a pitching staff as formidable as Ole Miss’ until they played them in the regional. They still got past the Rebels playing their power style of baseball.
Nolan Kingham, Chase Shugart, and (if necessary) Blair Henley will need to use the ballpark to their advantage if they want to advance to Omaha. All three have been hurt by issuing mistake pitches up in the zone to good hitting teams. Tennessee Tech will pounce on those mistakes regularly.
Texas and Tennessee Tech practice Friday, with media availabilities with coaches and players from both teams following practice.
Game one of the super regional is Saturday at 2 p.m.