JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Mar. 18, 2012) – Judah Akers broke a 3-3 tie with an RBI triple to deep center field in the eighth inning to lift Belmont (13-9, 2-1 A-Sun) to a 4-3 victory over ETSU (10-8, 1-2 A-Sun) in the rubber match of the series on Sunday afternoon at Thomas Stadium.
Austin Coley (2-0) earned the victory for the Bruins after tossing four strong shutout innings in relief of starter James Buckelew. Coley allowed just three hits and one walk, while striking out four in his four innings of work. Buckelew, who had given up just two earned runs on the season entering the game, pitched just three innings and allowed three runs on three hits, while walking two.
ETSU starter John Long (Anderson, S.C.) (4-1) was the tough luck loser as he gave another strong effort. Long pitched eight innings and allowed six hits and four runs, while walking three and striking out three. It was Long’s first loss of the season after previously earning wins in each of his four starts.
Akers and Zac Mitchell were both 2-for-3 on the afternoon, while Akers drove in two runs, including the game-winner.
ETSU got two hits apiece from Clinton Freeman (Jonesborough, Tenn.), Dylan Pratt (Johnson City, Tenn.) and Zach Waters (Woodstock, Ga.). Pratt had two of the three ETSU RBI on the day after launching a first inning home run. Meanwhile, Andrew Green (Powell, Tenn.) was 1-for-3 with the other Buccaneer RBI and Cory Betterson (Atlanta, Ga.) was also 1-for-3 on the day.
Belmont struck first in the top of the first inning by scoring a pair of runs on three hits. Mitchell set the table at the leadoff spot with a single through the right side and later stealing second. Greg Brody followed with an RBI single into left field for the first run of the ballgame. After Brody stole second to advance into scoring position, Judah Akers roped an RBI double down the third base line to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead.
The Bucs immediately responded in the bottom half of the inning on Pratt’s two-run homer deep over the left center field wall. With two outs in the inning, Freeman singled through the right side to give Pratt an opportunity. Then, Pratt deposited the 2-0 pitch from Buckelew deep over the right center field wall for his fifth homer of the season and knotting the game at 2-2.
ETSU took the lead in the third inning after an RBI single from Green scored Derek Niesman (Wellington, Fla.) from second base. With two outs in the inning, Niesman was hit by a pitch and then immediately stole second to advance into scoring position. Then, Green drilled the 0-1 pitch right back up the middle and Niesman was able to slide safely into home to give the Bucs the one-run lead.
The Bruins answered with a little small ball in the top of the fifth to tie the score at 3-3. Zac Mitchell once again got the rally started with a double down the right field line. Jared Breen followed with a sacrifice bunt to advance Mitchell to third. With just one out in the inning, Dylan Craig recorded an RBI sacrifice fly to center field to tie the game.
ETSU had several opportunities throughout the game to put additional runs on the board, but the Bucs left eight runners on base for the game. Perhaps the best opportunity came in the seventh when Waters hit a one-out double down the right field line. After Kerry Doane (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) flied out for the second out in the inning, Belmont elected to intentionally walk Scruggs with first base open to get to Freeman. With a 2-2 count, Freeman ripped the next pitch he saw through the right side for a base-hit, but Waters was thrown out at the plate by right fielder Drew Turner to end the inning.
Belmont scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning thanks to an RBI triple off the bat of Akers. Long was able to get two quick outs in the inning before hitting Brody with a pitch on a 3-2 count. After Brody stole second, Akers tripled to deep center field to score Brody from second and giving Belmont the 4-3 advantage.
The Bucs had another opportunity to score after Pratt led off the eighth inning with a single to right field. Pinch runner Zach Thompson (Johnson City, Tenn.) then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Niesman. However, the Bucs were unable to capitalize on the runner in scoring position as they came up empty in the inning.
The Bucs also had a golden opportunity in the bottom of the ninth as Waters poked his second double of the day down the right field line with just one out in the inning. Once again, Waters was left stranded on second as Doane flied out and Scruggs struck out to end the game. Garrett Fanchier earned his sixth save of the season after allowing just the one hit in the final inning.
ETSU will be back in action on Tuesday as the Bucs host UNC Asheville in a non-conference game at Thomas Stadium.
- Kerry Doane saw his 10-game hitting streak come to an end after an 0-for-5 day
- Clinton Freeman recorded his team leading 10th multi-hit game after going 2-for-4, while raising his average to a team-best .406. He has now reached base in 11 straight games.
- Belmont has now defeated the Bucs in nine of the last 10 contests and they now lead the overall series 22-8.
- Dylan Pratt is now tied with Clinton Freeman and Matthew Scruggs with five multi-RBI games on the season after recording two RBI on the afternoon. Pratt has now reached base in 17 of the team’s 18 games.
- Today’s game was the first time the Bucs have lost a game all season when its opponent scores less than five runs. Coming into the game, ETSU was a perfect 9-0 when keep its runners below five runs.
- Sunday’s series finale was the last conference series between the two schools as Belmont will leave the A-Sun to join the Ohio Valley Conference after the season.
For more information on ETSU baseball, please visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the baseball link.