JACKSON, Tenn. - Starter Casey Delgado and reliever Zach Toney combined for a shutout as Austin Peay State University's baseball team clinched the 2012 Ohio Valley Conference Baseball Championship with a 3-0 victory against Eastern Illinois, Sunday afternoon at Pringles Park.
Austin Peay (38-22), which wore its Camouflage Hats in a road game for the first time, won the tournament crown for the second consecutive year, equaling its back-to-back regular-season titles. It is the first time since the OVC returned to single-division play that a team has won consecutive regular-season and tournament titles.
Delgado (8-4) was masterful in his second tournament outing, tossing five scoreless innings and allowing only five base runners (three hits and two walks) - three of those coming in the first inning. Toney was even more dominating in his four innings, retiring all 12 batters he faced, including four by strikeout, for his season's first save. The duo combined to retire the final 15 batters they faced.
Meanwhile, Austin Peay's offense struck for two runs in the first inning. The Govs started the inning when center fielder Michael Blanchard reached on an infield error. Austin Peay moved him to second on designated hitter Jon Clinard's sacrifice bunt and a flyout by second baseman Jordan Hankins.
However, the Govs kept the inning going thanks to third baseman Greg Bachman's RBI single. Shortstop Reed Harper followed with a single that was his 200th career hit. Right fielder Rolando Gautier brought in the second run with a single to right center.
The damage could have been worse as Eastern Illinois starter Mike Hoekstra hit first baseman Tyler Childress to load the bases. He worked out of the jam when catcher Matt Wollenzin grounded out to first base to end the inning.
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The game settled in to a quick rhythm from that point as Hoekstra and the Govs duo engaged in a pitcher's duel over the next five innings as only seven baserunners reached between the two teams from the second through sixth innings.
Austin Peay finally was able to get into the Panthers bullpen in the seventh, when Hoekstra left after Hankins two-out single. EIU reliever George Kalousek then walked the next two Govs to load the bases. Reliever Darin Worman then took over and promptly ended the threat by striking out Gautier.
The Govs would not be denied in their quest for an insurance run, finally breaking through in the eighth. Childress rapped his second career triple - both coming in the tournament - off the base of the wall in center field. Left fielder Cody Hudson brought him home with a single through the drawn-in Panthers infield to put APSU up 3-0 and they would not look back.
Childress finished the day 2-for-3 and Hudson added a 2-for-4 outing to lead the Govs 10-hit attack. Bachman, Gautier and Hudson each had an RBI.
Hoekstra (5-4) suffered the loss despite only allowing two unearned runs over 6.2 innings, striking out five Govs batters. The Panthers offense managed just three hits in the contest.
Austin Peay advances to the 2012 NCAA Baseball Tournament which begins Friday, June 1 at sixteen regional sites that were announced Sunday. The tournament field - and Austin Peay's regional destination will be announced at 11 a.m. (CT), Monday on ESPNU.
2012 OVC ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM: Sam Eberle (JSU), Kenton Parmley (SEMO), Ryan Dineen (EIU), Greg Bachman (APSU), Reed Harper, (APSU), Jordan Hankins (APSU), Kyle Bluestein (JSU), Rolando Gautier (APSU), Ben Thoma (EIU), Daniel Watts (JSU), Mike Hoekstra (EIU), Kacy Kemmer (APSU), Zach Toney (APSU)
2012 OVC TOURNAMENT "MOST VALUABLE PLAYER" - Greg Bachman, Austin Peay