COOKEVILLE — Ridge Smith stepped to the plate in the eighth inning with a runner in scoring position, just looking to find a gap to break a tie ballgame.

The freshman took a big cut on a high fastball, swinging with authority, but missed and expressed his displeasure by slapping his bat. However, two pitches later, Smith connected on a pitch to send it over the left field wall at Bush Stadium, propelling the Govs to a 9-6 win over Tennessee Tech on Saturday, April 5.

“I was looking to see the ball up because they had been down all day, and it was a little too much up there,” Smith said on the swinging strike. “I wasn’t really happy with myself when I swung at it, but I was looking to put it in the gap somewhere, not necessarily trying to hit a home run.”

But he’ll gladly accept a deep ball as the homer erased a 6-6 tie which had been active since the bottom of the fifth inning between the number one and two ranked Ohio Valley Conference teams coming into the season. The APSU bullpen limited the Golden Eagles to just two hits from the sixth inning until the final out was recorded, with senior Ryan Quick getting the final seven outs in a new role.

Quick, who started on Opening Day for the Govs, hasn’t started a game since March 26. But the right-hander has performed better than ever when coming out of the pen, not allowing a hit in all four appearances where he has pitched a total of five innings. On Saturday, Quick faced early trouble in the seventh with two outs, hitting a batter and walking another, but settled in to total four strikeouts and earned his second win of the season.

“He filled up the zone and his slider was really, really good,” APSU head coach Gary McClure said. “It’s as good as I’ve seen it in a long time, and saw a little bit of what we saw a couple years ago, so that was big.”

The Govs (12-19, 5-6 OVC) got off to a rough start as Tennessee Tech put up four runs in the second inning off starter Caleb Powell. The freshman went just one and one-third of an inning, with all four runs being earned, but the offense picked him up in the third and fourth to rack up three runs in each frame.

APSU took advantage of mistakes made by the home team to run the bases well, scoring three runs without a ball leaving the infield. The Golden Eagles (24-8, 8-6 OVC) committed three errors in the contest, including an obstruction call at second base which allowed Cayce Bredlau to score. In the fourth, the Govs executed with two outs, beginning with a RBI single by Logan Gray, and two more runs followed on a bases loaded walk and wild pitch.

“That’s a big difference with two outs,” Gray, who went 3-for-5, said. “Just not giving up and keep pushing. We’re scoring a lot of runs with two outs.”

After scoring one in the third, Tennessee Tech answered back to tie the game in the fifth as the Govs allowed 10 men to reach on just walks alone. But the Golden Eagles left 12 runners on bases through nine innings, which was a key factor in the Govs capturing the series win.

But APSU isn’t settling for less. They’ll go for the sweep on Sunday, April 6 against their rivals, with Caleb DeLee in line to start for the Govs.

“We’re feeling good,” Smith said. “I guess we’re just playing with extra money now that we’ve won the series. We’re just trying to go for the sweep.”

Photo: Ridge Smith (Corey Adams/The All State)