COOKEVILLE — Tennessee Tech had every right to be the favorite coming into the first of three games against APSU. With ace David Hess on the mound to go along with a lineup whose team batting average is ranked top five in the country, the Golden Eagles had everything in their arsenal to overpower a struggling APSU team.
But they didn’t have Alex Robles.
The freshman was a game changer for the Govs on the hill and at the plate, leading his team to a 7-4 victory over Tennessee Tech on Friday, April 4 at Bush Stadium. Robles became the first APSU pitcher this season to last more than seven innings as the right-hander went eight strong innings, allowing four runs (three earned) to score, and totaled a career-best six strikeouts.
“He was a warrior tonight,” APSU head coach Gary McClure said. “He just competed his tail off tonight. He did what he always does — throws strikes and was able to get all of his pitches over. He threw a lot of sliders tonight and made really good pitches with them. Just a phenomenal effort tonight.”
Robles stayed in the game to pitch the ninth with 116 pitches thrown, and McClure said he still had good velocity on his fastball. But after putting two men on with no outs, the leash was pulled on Robles as A.J. Gaura entered pick up the save, the first of his career.
APSU (11-19, 4-6 OVC) ends a six-game losing streak that dates back to March 26 where the offense failed over five runs in five of the six contests. But the bats broke through to give Robles more than enough runs of support, led by senior Rolando Gautier setting the table back in the lead off spot in the order.
Gautier went 2-for-5 with a pair of RBI, and helped the Govs control the momentum beginning in the second inning. After Robles singled, Hess loaded the bases with two walks. APSU has had its share of problems driving in runs with both runners in scoring position and two out hitting, but were disciplined at the plate on Friday. Garrett Copeland laced a single to bring home two, while Gautier tripled over Rowland’s head in center field for his third triple of the season.
“It gives us a boost morally, knowing that we can go up there and battle come through for us,” Gautier said. “It was exciting to see us do things like that because we haven’t seen that in a while.”
Robles helped himself at the plate as well — going 2-for-5 with a RBI and two runs scored. As a whole, the Govs had just six strikeouts, did not ground into any double plays, and left only six men on base. It was a complete turnaround compared to the last handful of games, and beating the preseason favorites in the Ohio Valley Conference certainly changed the chemistry of the team as the dugout was lively after the game.
Winning on the road can do that to you, but to pull it off where the Golden Eagles (24-6, 8-4 OVC) have lost just twice at this season, it definitely lifts APSU’s spirits after going 1-9 previously away from Clarksville.
“We tease and talk about that all the time,Gautier said “It feels great to win on their field tonight, getting out in the middle of their field and high five each other for having a good game. I think this win is big, but tomorrow’s a new day. We need to come back hungry to win again tomorrow too.”
Tomorrow is certainly another day, and the Govs don’t want to witness another series like they did at Jacksonville State two weekends ago where after winning the opener, they fell off pace to lose the series.
“We don’t want to have that same feeling again, “Robles said. “I think we’ll come back tomorrow and just battle like we did tonight.”
First pitch for Game 2 of the series will be at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 5. Caleb Powell will get the ball for APSU, while Tennessee Tech counters with Chris Chism.
Photo: Alex Robles (Corey Adams/The All State)