JACKSON, Tenn. – Shortstop Reed Harper salvaged a rough first inning and third baseman Jordan Hankins batted in a pair of go-ahead runs as No. 26 Austin Peay State University’s baseball team clinched its third straight Ohio Valley Conference Baseball Tournament title with a 6-3 victory against Eastern Kentucky, Saturday, at The Ballpark at Jackson.
Second-seeded Austin Peay (45-13) clinched the title – its sixth all-time – with a three-game sweep through the bracket and claimed the OVC’s automatic bid to next week’s NCAA Tournament. Additionally, the Govs ran their program-best win streak to 15 games – the longest active streak in Division I.
Fifth-seeded Eastern Kentucky (23-34), which stunned top-seed Tennessee Tech in the day’s first game, rode the momentum of that earlier victory as it struck for three runs in the first inning. Designated hitter Bryan Soloman cashed in a pair of walks with his two-run double and first baseman Alex Hughes tacked on a third run with a sacrifice fly.
Harper would come to the Govs rescue in the bottom of the inning. With runners on second and third, Harper belted a 1-0 pitch over the 24-foot wall in left field for a game-tying three-run home run.
One inning later, Hankins would give the Govs a lead they would not relinquish with a two-out RBI single for a 4-3 lead. He would add a fifth run courtesy a sixth-inning RBI single. Center fielder Dylan Riner wrapped up the Govs scoring with a RBI double in the eighth.
APSU starter Ryan Quick continued to battle on the mound and would last 3.2 innings allowing only the three runs in the first inning despite surrendering three hits and six walks. The Govs bullpen would pick up the game from there with relievers Lee Ridenhour, Kacy Kemmer and Tyler Rogers combining to throw 5.1 scoreless innings of relief while along only three hits and three walks.
Ridenhour (7-1), making his first appearance since an April 26 start at Eastern Kentucky, picked up the win as the next man up after Quick. He would throw 2.1 scoreless innings, allowing a hit and a walk. Kemmer followed with two scoreless innings to set up the close. Rogers racked up a scoreless ninth for his 21st save in 2013 and his OVC record breaking 33rd career save.
Austin Peay’s offense posted 14 hits – its 14th double-digit hits outing during the win streak. Riner was 3-for-5 with an RBI while left fielder Cody Hudson went 3-for-3. Hankins and right fielder Tommy Hager each had two hits.
Eastern Kentucky starter Cody Creamer (2-2) suffered the loss after allowing four runs over the opening 1.2 innings. Right fielder Shaun Ball had a 3-for-4 performance at the plate to lead the Colonels’ six-hit outing.
Austin Peay will now wait to discover its landing spot the regional round of the NCAA Tournament with a noon, Monday announcement. The Govs will host a reception beginning at 10:30 a.m., Monday in the Hall of Fame Lobby at the Dunn Center.