JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (May 18, 2013) – With the game tied at three after five innings of play, the ETSU baseball team broke things open by plating eight runs in the sixth to pull away from Jacksonville and complete the sweep of the Dolphins with an 11-4 win on Saturday afternoon at Thomas Stadium.
Saturday was also Senior Day, and after being recognized with a pregame ceremony, the four senior starters helped lift the Blue and Gold to their fourth series sweep and ninth series win of the season, which secured ETSU the number four seed in next week’s Atlantic Sun Championship.
After providing the Blue and Gold with his walk-off double earlier on Saturday morning, senior Mason Hershey (Altoona, Pa.) came through with two clutch doubles in the series finale, marking the second time in his Buccaneer career the catcher tallied a pair of two-baggers. Hershey drove in two runs and scored twice, while it was his double in the sixth that ignited the eight-run inning. Fellow senior Andrew Green (Powell, Tenn.) extended his streak of reaching base to 19 straight games after walking twice and scoring a run, while Alex Reynolds (Johnson City, Tenn.) finished the regular season reaching base safely in his last 17 conference games played. Reynolds went 1-for-4 with a run scored on Saturday. Rounding out the streaks was senior Derek Niesman (Wellington, Fla.) as he has now recorded a hit in each of the last 12 contests with the Buccaneer infielder going 1-for-4 with a walk, run scored and an RBI in the seven-run victory.
While the seniors continued building on their streaks, a handful of underclassmen also finished with productive days at the plate. Freshman Kevin Phillips (St. Louis, Mo.) put ETSU on the board when he blasted his second home run of the season to leadoff the second and sophomore shortstop Chris Riopedre (Miami, Fla.) hit a bases clearing triple in the sixth to tie a career high with three RBI. Freshman outfielder Jeremy Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.) went 2-for-5 with a run scored and stole his 19th base of the season in the sixth inning.
Junior Logan Rice (Erwin, Tenn.) earned the win (6-3) after allowing one unearned run on three hits in 3.2 innings of work, while Jared Burton (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Griffin Krieg (Nashville, Tenn.) combined for 1.1 scoreless innings out of the bullpen.
For the series, the ETSU pitching staff generated a 1.20 ERA (4 ER/30.0 IP) and held the Dolphins to a .204 batting average (21-103). At the plate, Reynolds led the offense with a .400 clip (4-10) with two runs scored and two RBI, while Niesman hit .333 (4-12), and Hershey went 3-for-10 with three doubles, two runs scored and three RBI.
Following the sweep, the Bucs moved to 32-22, 17-10 in A-Sun play, marking the most conference wins since ETSU won 18 games in 1999. Furthermore, the 32 wins are tied for the fifth-most in program history, and the most victories since the 2011 squad recorded 36. Jacksonville saw its season come to an end as the Dolphins finished the 2013 campaign at 17-38, 8-19, and USC Upstate surpassed them for the eighth and final spot for the conference championship after rallying past North Florida with two ninth-inning runs on Saturday.
Despite suffering a tough extra-inning loss late Friday night/early Saturday morning, Jacksonville jumped out to the 1-0 lead when Zach Houck led off the game with a walk and scored after Ethan Loosen grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.
The Bucs didn’t trail for long as Phillips pulled the Blue and Gold even at one as he belted a bomb over the left field wall to leadoff the second, but the see-saw game continued as the Dolphins regained a 2-1 lead on Loosen’s two-out RBI double in the third.
ETSU responded with a two-run fourth to regain a 3-2 advantage as Hershey drove in Taylor on the first of two RBI doubles and the senior catcher later scored on a two-out throwing error by second baseman Jake Huxtable.
However, after the Dolphins tied the game at three in the top of the fifth, the Bucs exploded for the eight-run sixth to gain momentum and cruise their way to a sixth straight home win. ETSU had 12 at-bats in the inning and picked up RBIs from Hershey, Dylan Tritsch (Boca Raton, Fla.), Clinton Freeman (Jonesborough, Tenn.), Phillips, and Niesman, while Riopedre capped off the scoring spree when his triple to the gap in right-center plated the final three runs, making it an 11-3 score.
Jacksonville finished the scoring when Kris Molter’s sac-fly to left scored Nathan Koslowski, but Will Chesney (Knoxville, Tenn.) forced Nate Ricci into a game-ending fly out to finish out the contest.
Jacksonville’s Alex McRae suffered the loss (3-8) after being charged with five runs (four earned) on eight hits in 5.1 innings of work. Houck reached base three times on walks and scored three of the four Dolphin runs.
ETSU begins its run for an A-Sun Championship on Wednesday when the fourth-seeded Buccaneers face host and No. 5 seed Stetson at 10 a.m., from Melching Field in DeLand, Fla.
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