JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (May 17, 2013) – After scoring two runs in the first, the ETSU baseball team was held scoreless for the next ten innings until senior catcher Mason Hershey (Altoona, Pa.) provided the Blue and Gold with a walk-off double in the twelfth, lifting the Bucs to a 3-2 win over Jacksonville on early Saturday morning at Thomas Stadium.
Both teams used two pitchers each in the extra-inning affair and Hershey’s RBI hit drove in the only earned run of the night.
The 15-plus Major League scouts got their monies worth on a damp evening as Jacksonville’s ace Chris Anderson picked up a no-decision despite allowing two unearned runs on eight hits, while striking out nine in 10 innings of work. Meanwhile, ETSU starter Jimmy Nesselt (Plantation, Fla.) also earned a no-decision as he was also charged with two unearned runs on four hits in seven innings. Nesselt struck out five batters and walked one. Junior left-hander Clinton Freeman (Jonesborough, Tenn.) tossed five scoreless innings out of the bullpen to earn the win. Freeman improved to 5-1 after limiting the Dolphin offense to three hits, while tying a career high with six strikeouts to lower his ERA to 0.50 (2 ER/36.1 IP) in 20 relief appearances this season.
Hershey wasn’t the only senior to come through on the final weekend of regular season play as Derek Niesman (Wellington, Fla.), Andrew Green (Powell, Tenn.) and Alex Reynolds (Johnson City, Tenn.) also contributed to the victory. Niesman extended his hit streak to 11 straight games after finishing with two hits, and it was his two-RBI double that gave ETSU the early 2-0 lead in the first inning. Green played in his 220th career game, which surpassed former Buccaneer great Paul Hoilman (2008-11) for the most games played in program history. Green also continued his streak of reaching base safely to 18 consecutive games after going 2-for-5 with a run scored. Reynolds – who scored the game-winning run after leading off the 12th inning with a four-pitch walk – has now reached base in each of the last 16 conference games.
In a game where the final run was scored on Saturday morning due to a 2-hour, 14-minute rain delay prior to first pitch, the Bucs won their ninth series of the season to improve their record to 31-22, 16-10 in A-Sun play. With the victory, ETSU moved into the number four slot for the conference tournament and will either play host Stetson or Kennesaw State on Wednesday in the first round. Should Stetson beat Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday, the Bucs will play the Hatters, while the Blue and Gold could face Kenensaw State if the Owls sweep Lipscomb and Stetson drops the third game of the series in Ft. Myers. Meanwhile, Jacksonville still hasn’t solidified its spot in the conference championship as the Dolphins and USC Upstate are tied at 8-18 in league play. The Dolphins are 17-37 overall.
Jacksonville – who went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position on the night – missed their first scoring chance in the top of the first as the Dolphins left Dylan Dillard stranded at third when Nesselt got Brady North looking for his second strikeout of the game. Then, in the bottom half of the inning, the Bucs took advantage of Ethan Loosen’s one-out throwing error at short, as ETSU scored a pair of unearned runs later in the inning to jump ahead 2-0 when Niesman’s two-out double brought home Green and Dylan Tritsch (Boca Raton, Fla.).
From there, those would be the only runs scored for the next ten innings as Anderson held the ETSU offense in check for the remainder of the night. The right-handed hurler sent the Bucs down in order in three of his last nine innings of work, while scattering five hits from the second inning on.
Just as ETSU took full-use of a Jacksonville error in the bottom of the first, the Dolphins capitalized on Reynolds’ two-out throwing error in the fourth, and the visitors from Florida pushed across two unearned runs to pull even at two.
Following the two-run fourth, Jacksonville never threatened until the eleventh inning, while ETSU missed scoring chances late in regulation.
In the seventh, the Bucs had runners on first and third with one out, but Anderson worked out of the jam by inducing Tritsch to hit into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play. Two innings later, Niesman led off the ninth with a single and moved into scoring position on Reynolds’ sac-bunt, but with one out Chris Riopedre (Miami, Fla.) flied out to center and Niesman was gunned down at third as he tried to tag on the play.
Once again, ETSU had the winning run in scoring position in the tenth as Jeremy Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.) reached via a one-out single and stole second, but Anderson zoned in to get back-to-back ground outs to send the game into the eleventh.
The Dolphins finally had their first scoring chance since the fourth inning in the eleventh when Dillard led things off with a single to center and advanced to second on a sac-bunt. Following a grounder by Jake Huxtable, Dillard moved to third, but he was left stranded when Freeman struck out North looking for the second time on the night.
After Jacksonville went scoreless for the eighth consecutive frame in the twelfth, Hershey came through with the clutch hit to finish off the 3-hour, 7-minute contest in the bottom of the inning. Reynolds began the inning with the walk, while Riopedre recorded an ETSU single-season best 12th sac-bunt to move the senior third baseman into scoring position. Hershey then took the first pitch he saw off Adam Maxon and laced a double off the wall in right to bring in the winning run and move the Bucs’ mark to 5-0 in extra-inning games this season.
Maxon suffered the loss (2-3) after allowing the one run on one hit in 1.1 innings of work, while Dillard finished with three of Jacksonville’s seven hits on the night.
ETSU’s offense totaled nine hits, with Taylor, Green, and Niesman all registering two hits each.
Both teams return to Thomas Stadium later today to close out regular season play. First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m., with Senior Day festivities taking place prior to the start of the contest.
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