JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Mar. 21, 2004) - East Tennessee State stranded the possible tying and game-winning runs on first and second as UNC Greensboro held on for a 6-5 victory over the Bucs Sunday afternoon. With the win, the Spartans (15-4, 4-2 Southern Conference) took two out of three from ETSU (12-13, 3-6 SoCon) in the weekend series from Cardinal Park in Johnson City, Tenn.
UNCG took charge early, taking a 3-0 lead after scoring a run in the top of the first and two in the second. In the first, second baseman Jeremy Roulin led off the game with a double to left, and advanced to third on a ground out by center fielder Ryan Gordon. Roulin then crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly by first baseman Justin Crist.
With two outs in the top of the second, pitcher Chris Mason walked and third baseman Nate Alden reached on a bunt single to start the two-run rally. Maule scored on a single by catcher Jesse Lavender while Alden crossed the plate as Gordon reached on an error.
ETSU got right back in the game in the bottom of the third, cutting the Spartan lead to 3-2. Sophomore third baseman Greg Roberts (Douglas, Ga.) led off the frame with a single then senior shortstop Andy Howdeshell (Maryville, Tenn.) reached on an error. Both runners advanced on a sac bunt by sophomore center fielder Matt Traylor (Knoxville, Tenn.). Roberts would come home on a sacrifice fly by sophomore right fielder Shane Byrne (Johnson City, Tenn.) before Howdeshell scored on a single by junior catcher Caleb Moore (Knoxville, Tenn.).
UNC Greensboro widened their lead with two runs in the top of the fourth. Gordon reached on a fielder's choice with two outs and Crist followed with a walk. Both runners scored on a double to left-center by shortstop Danny Valencia. Valencia's double was one of several clutch hits this afternoon for UNCG as the Spartans scored five of their six runs with two outs.
But the resilient Bucs cut the Spartan lead to one again with two runs in the bottom of the fifth. Howdeshell led off the inning with an infield single and was on base as Traylor hit a two-run homer over the right field wall. The blast was Traylor's second of the weekend and fourth of the season.
East Tennessee State also had an opportunity to tie the game or take the lead in the fifth, but UNCG reliever Jarrett Santos came on to strand Buccaneers at second and third. ETSU loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth with one out, but Santos was able to work out of that jam as well without allowing any runs to score.
UNCG put what eventually was the game-winning run on the board in the eighth. Roulin was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Gordon and went to third on a single by Crist. An error on the single allowed Crist to advance to second as Roulin scored.
Moore began ETSU's rally in the ninth with a one-out double to center field. Sophomore first baseman Blake Church (Roswell, Ga.) then laced a single to drive in Moore and cut the UNCG lead to one. But that was as close as the Bucs would come.
ETSU outhit the Spartans, 8-to-6, but committed five errors and walked nine batters on the afternoon.
"This was a disappointing loss," said ETSU head coach Tony Skole after the game. "We had inability to throw strikes and close innings out this afternoon. We had some two-out walks that they capitalized on and we did not make some routine plays."
Moore and Howdeshell led the Bucs with a game-high two hits on the afternoon while Howdeshell scored two runs and Traylor drove in two. Six different players had one hit each for UNCG while Roulin scored twice and Valencia drove in two runs.
Santos (5-1) pitched five strong innings of relief to earn his fifth win of the season. He allowed one run on four hits while walking two and striking out one. ETSU senior lefty Tim Turner (Marietta, Ga.) was charged with the loss (3-4) after allowing four earned runs on five hits over five innings.
East Tennessee State returns to action Tuesday night at 7 p.m. from Cardinal Park in Johnson City, Tenn., as the Bucs host in-state rival Tennessee.