By Crystal Wylie
Special to the Register
Despite holding a nine-run lead, the Eastern Kentucky University baseball team had to hold off a Southeast Missouri State rally for a 12-9 victory in an elimination game at the 2013 Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Friday in Jackson, Tenn.
The No. 5 seeded Colonels are one of the final three teams remaining.
EKU will face the loser of Friday’s winner’s bracket game between No. 1 Tennessee Tech and No. 2 seed Austin Peay. That game will be played today at 1 p.m. ET. If the Colonels win they will play the winner of the TTU/APSU game at 4:30 p.m.
EKU (22-33) had a 12-5 lead before the Redhawks (26-33) scored four runs in the eighth. SEMO had the tying run at the plate and one out in the top of the ninth. Eastern reliever Cody Creamer struck out one batter and shortstop Luke Wurzelbacher made a spectacular diving catch while running away from the infield to end the game.
The Colonels struck early with two runs in the first inning. Sean Hagen drove in Kyle Nowlin with a single up the middle. Doug Teegarden later scored on a double play ball.
Eastern starter Matt Lynch struck out two batters in the top of the second before the Colonel hitters went back to work in the bottom of the inning. With runners on the corners, Wurzelbacher singled through the left side to start a 4-run inning. A throwing error on the play allowed a second runner to score and Wurzelbacher to move to third. A second straight double by Nowlin plated Wurzelbacher. Hagen drove in Nowlin with a single through the left side to cap the big inning and make it 6-0.
The lead grew to 8-0 on Wurzelbacher’s third inning 2-out, 2-run double to left center. Bryan Soloman’s RBI single in the fourth made it four straight innings with at least one run.
Nowlin went 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI. Teegarden had three hits in five at bats and scored twice. Wurzelbacher was 2-for-4 with a run and three RBIs.
The sixth seeded Redhawks got on the board in the fifth. Andy Lack scored on a sacrifice fly by Derek Gibson. Matt Tellor had an RBI double and Dalton Hewitt hit a sacrifice fly to cut the deficit to 9-3. A pair of 2-out RBI singles by Gibson and Tellor in the sixth cut the SEMO deficit to four.
Tellor and Gibson were both 3-for-5 with a run scored and two RBIs each.
EKU pushed the lead back to seven, 12-5, with three more in the bottom of the sixth. Kenny Hostrander had a 2-run single. However, SEMO did not go away. Southeast platted four in the top of the eighth to get within three. A 2-run single through the right side by Ryan Barnes made it a 12-9 game.
Hostrander finished 3-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs. Alex Hughes had a 4-for-5 day with two runs and an RBI.
Lynch (2-5) threw 121 pitches while working seven innings. He allowed five runs on 12 hits, walked three and struck out four. Creamer pitched the final one and two-thirds innings to earn his fourth save of the season. He allowed two hits and struck out two.
• Eastern Kentucky has won two OVC Tournament games in the same season for the first time since winning three in 2005.
• The two teams combined for 36 hits and 21 runs.
• Luke Wurzelbacher has started 19 straight games and has hit safely in 14 of those.
• Sean Hagen has reached base in 15 straight games, tying the season-best by a Colonel in 2013.
• Eastern’s recent starting line-ups have featured four freshmen — Doug Teegarden (3B), Kyle Nowlin (LF), Kenny Hostrander (2B) and Luke Wurzelbacher (SS).
• Southeast Missouri starter Will Spitzfaden allowed four runs on seven hits in six and two-thirds innings earlier this season against Eastern Kentucky. He walked one and struck out two. On Friday, he gave up six runs on six hits in one and one-third innings.
• EKU starter Matt Lynch made a relief appearance earlier this season against SEMO. He pitched one scoreless inning, allowed two hits and walked one.