JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (May 8, 2013) – In the final tune-up before its stretch run in Atlantic Sun play, the ETSU baseball team defeated UNC Asheville, 9-3, on a rainy Wednesday night at Thomas Stadium.
The Bucs – who now finish the season with six conference games beginning Friday night at league-leading and No. 21 Mercer – got three strong innings from sophomore Jimmy Nesselt (Plantation, Fla.), while junior Clinton Freeman (Jonesborough, Tenn.) led the offensive attack by going 3-for-3 with one triple, two runs scored and four RBI.
Nesselt took to the mound for his first start since March 3 and earned the win (2-1) after registering three no-hit innings along with striking out three. Joining Freeman with strong performances at the plate were junior newcomers Dylan Tritsch (Boca Raton, Fla.) and Daniel Tucker (Hendersonville, Tenn.). Tritsch went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and Tucker – who was making just his second start of the year – provided the Blue and Gold with a pair of hits and put ETSU on the board with a two-RBI single in the second. Meanwhile, freshman Jeremy Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.) reached base three times via the walk and scored two runs, while senior Derek Niesman (Wellington, Fla.) extended his hit streak to six straight following an RBI single in the seventh. In total, Niesman drove in three runs on the night.
ETSU jumped out to a 5-0 lead through the first three innings of play and never looked back as the Bucs won the season series over the Bulldogs, marking the 15th win in their last 17 games played against the Big South foe. Overall, the Blue and Gold have won six of their last eight games to improve their mark to 28-20, while Asheville moved to 15-31.
With Nesselt shutting down the Bulldog hitters early on, Tucker began the offensive surge when his two-run scoring single in the second put the Bucs ahead, 2-0. The first two Buccaneer hitters reached to start the inning via an infield single by Freeman and a walk by Niesman – and after both moved up on Alex Reynolds’ (Johnson City, Tenn.) sac-bunt – Tucker drove them in with a rocket single to center, marking his first RBIs in an ETSU uniform.
The Bucs added to their lead in the third as Freeman drove in a pair of runs with a bases loaded single, while Niesman’s RBI ground out scored Andrew Green (Powell, Tenn.) to extended ETSU’s lead to, 5-0.
Asheville got on the board in the fourth when Ian Graham’s fielder’s choice ground out with the bases loaded scored Kyle Towles, but with two outs and runners on the corners, Tritsch robbed Billy Creighton of extra bases by tracking down a liner in left to end the inning and keeping the Blue and Gold ahead, 5-1.
In the fifth, the Bulldogs inched closer when Hunter Bryant led off the inning with a solo homer to left to make it a 5-2 score, but Griffin Krieg (Nashville, Tenn.) worked out of a minor jam by striking out Robert McIntosh looking to end the frame with runners on first and second.
The Blue and Gold got those runs back in the bottom of the fifth as ETSU hung up another three spot on the board to push its advantage to, 8-2. After Taylor worked his third walk of the night, Tritsch reached on a bunt single, which led to a two-run scoring triple by Freeman. From there, Niesman made it a six-run lead as the senior infielder brought in Freeman with a sac-fly to center.
The Bulldogs picked up another leadoff home run in the sixth as Todd Joyner made it an 8-3 game after belting his second home run of the season, but the tail end of the Buccaneer bullpen held Asheville without a hit in the final three innings. Freshman right-hander Kameron Miller (Crestview, Fla.) began the strong efforts by tossing the seventh, while Will Chesney (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Freeman combined for three strikeouts in the final two frames. Chesney – who has not allowed a run in his last four appearances (7.1 IP) – fanned one of the three hitters he faced in the inning, and Freeman struck out two of the three Bulldog hitters in the ninth to finish his 17th game of the campaign.
Niesman capped off the scoring when his single in the seventh scored Green – who worked a two-out walk and stole his 72nd base of his career – to give the Bucs a six-run lead.
Asheville’s Lucas Clarke suffered the loss (2-4) after allowing five runs on four hits in three innings, while Joyner and Bryant finished with two-hits each at the plate.
The Bucs have a quick turnaround as ETSU heads to Macon, Ga. for a key three-game conference series with league-leading Mercer beginning Friday night at 6 p.m., from Claude Smith Field. Mercer sits atop the A-Sun standings with North Florida at 15-6, while the Bucs are 13-8.
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