EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – For the second time in two days, SIUE held the nation's number one offense in check, but again it came in a losing cause.
Tennessee Tech defeated the Cougars 4-1 to take the first two games of the three-game series baseball series.
SIUE fell to 5-11 overall and 1-4 in Ohio Valley Conference play. Tennessee Tech improved to 13-5 overall 4-1 in OVC play.
The Golden Eagles entered the series leading the NCAA in nearly every hitting category including batting average and hits, but we're limited to just four runs on nine hits Saturday.
"We have a lot of confidence in our guys on the mound," SIUE Head Coach Sean Lyons said. "They have done a nice job all year."
Tennessee Tech struck for two runs on three hits in the second inning against SIUE starter Ryan Byrd. Nick Osborne plated two with a double.
"Again, they pounced on us early," Lyons said. "That's something we'd love to prevent, but our pitchers over the past two days have given us the chance to win a ballgame."
The Golden Eagles scored a run on two hits in the fifth inning to lead 3-0 before the Cougars got on the board.
Aaron Goecks launched a one-out solo home run in the fifth inning to make it 3-1. The Cougars then loaded the bases with one out in the sixth inning with a pair of hits and walk by Tech starter Marcus Evey.
Colton Provey relieved Evey to face Peyton Cordova-Smith. Cordova-Smith smoked a ball to short, where David Garza turned it into an inning-ending double play.
"We needed that big hit with the bases loaded and we just didn't get it," Lyons said. "We hit one hard but hit it right at someone."
Evey improved to 2-0 with the win. He worked 5 1/3 innings and struck out five.
TTU manufactured a run in the seventh inning to extend the lead to 4-1. Brennon Kaleiwaha reached on an infield hit, moved to second base on a wild pitch and then to third base on a sacrifice bunt by Alex Junior. Trevor Putzig drove in the run with a sacrifice fly to center.
Kaleiwaha was one of three TTU hitters with two hits.
All four runs came against Byrd, who equaled his longest outing of the year at 6 1/3 innings. He gave up eight hits and struck out three.
Brock Fulkerson worked the final 2 2/3 innings without allowing a run. He struck out one.
"He has the ability to pound the strike zone and that's what makes that role out of the bullpen so important," Lyons said. "He's a guy that can bounce back. He can throw two innings and he can throw again on the next day."
SIUE was held to just four hits for the game. Goecks was 2-4 to pace the lineup.
"We faced a good arm who had high number of strikeouts coming in," Lyons said of the offense. "We knew it was going to be a challenge with where we're at offensively right now.
"We have to keep our guys staying positive and believing," Lyons continued. "It will break through. Eventually it will happen."