CLARKSVILLE - First baseman Tyler Childress' walk-off leadoff home run capped a five home run outing by Austin Peay State University's baseball team in a 9-8 Ohio Valley Conference victory against Murray State, Saturday afternoon at Raymond C. Hand Park.
Austin Peay (21-13, 8-2 OVC) jumped out on top thanks to home runs by a pair of unlikely suspects. Center fielder Michael Blanchard hit his first home run in more than year to lead off the first and give the Govs a 1-0 lead. Two innings later left fielder Jon Clinard led off the third with a home run - his first home run in two years - to extend the lead to 4-0.
The Govs extended their lead to 7-1 in the fifth on designated hitter Cody Hudson's two-run shot that hit the top of the wall in center field and continued out.
But for the second consecutive game, Austin Peay saw its early lead evaporate. Murray State (18-18, 4-7 OVC) got the bulk of its deficit back in a five-run sixth inning that was aided by a couple of Austin Peay errors.
Reliever Mike Hebert was on the verge of escaping the sixth-inning jam, allowing one run and facing two runners on base with two outs. However, the Thoroughbreds got four consecutive base hits to score four additional runs. Pinch hitter Brandon Eggenschwiler started the rally with a RBi single. He was followed by center fielder Paul Ritzheimer who chased Hebert from the game with a double.
Austin Peay turned to reliever Andy Cox and he saw left fielder Ty Stetson rifle a ball to the right side. Childress made a diving play to keep the ball in the infield, but his underhand throw to Cox at first base was low and allowed a second run to score on the play.
Cox nearly saw things go from bad to worse as shortstop Travis Isaak missed a home run by two feet in straight-away center field and instead ended up with a RBI triple, cutting the Austin Peay lead to one run, 7-6. Cox ended the rally by forcing catcher Jacob Rhodes to ground out.
Austin Peay got one of those runs back in the sixth thanks to second baseman Jordan Hankins' solo home run. The Govs gave that run back in the seventh as the Govs pitching staff surrendered a leadoff walk then a sacrifice fly as the 'Breds closed back to 8-7.
Murray State threatened to take the lead in the eighth, piecing together a two-out rally. First baseman Mike Koslowski started the rally with a double to center field. The Govs then intentionally walked pinch hitter Colton Speed before inserting closer Tyler Rogers to try and shut down the threat. Rogers was unable to do so as third baseman Luke Daugherty singled back through the middle, scoring the game-tying run. Rogers shut the door, inducing an inning-ending fielder's choice.
After Rogers faced the minimum number of batters in the ninth, Childress stepped up to face Murray State reliever Will Handlin. Handlin got ahead of Childress, 1-2, but left a pitch out over the plate which Childress drove over the wall in center field for the game-winner.
Rogers (2-0) picked up the win after retiring four of the five batters he faced and did not allow a run. Starter Zach Toney - making his first start in two weeks - allowed one run on four hits over five innings.
The first seven hitters in the Govs order had two hits each to lead a 14-hit outing. Childress ended the day 2-for-2 with two RBI and three walks. Hudson was 2-for-5 with two RBI. Third baseman Greg Bachman hit his second career triple and was 2-for-5.
Handlin (3-2) suffered the loss after allowing one run in one-plus inning of relief. Ritzheimer led the 'Breds offense with a 3-for-4 effort while Isaak and Wheeler each had two RBI.
Austin Peay and Murray State will conclude their three-game OVC series with a 1 p.m., Sunday contest at Raymond C. Hand Park.