DeLAND Fla. (May 25, 2013) – The ETSU baseball team continued its walk-off magic on Saturday.
After scoring the game-winning run Friday against Mercer, senior Andrew Green (Powell, Tenn.) provided the Blue and Gold with the walk-off hit today, as his chopper through the right side of the infield scored fellow senior Mason Hershey (Altoona, Pa.), lifting the Bucs into Sunday’s Atlantic Sun Championship game with a 4-3 victory over USC Upstate.
The tournament, which is being held at Stetson’s Melching Field, has seen the Bucs pull off late-inning heroics in all three games as ETSU has won all three in their final at-bat and also trailed in each outing. Overall, the Blue and Gold have won ten games in their final at-bat and have trailed in 21 of their 35 wins this season. Following the dramatic victory, ETSU extended its win streak to a season-high six straight games, and improved to 35-22 on the campaign.
Three different pitchers helped push the Bucs into the championship game, while ETSU had to rally back twice to pull off the victory. Junior right-hander Will Chesney (Knoxville, Tenn.) picked up the win (4-2) after working out of a one-out jam in the top of the ninth, while left-hander Jared Burton (Knoxville, Tenn.) gave the Blue and Gold four solid innings out of the bullpen. Burton relieved starter Logan Rice (Erwin, Tenn.) in the fifth and held the Spartans to one run on two hits while striking out three in a season-high innings pitched. Meanwhile, Rice allowed two runs on eight hits and fanned three in the first four innings of work.
Despite being outhit, 10-6, the Bucs were able to fight back after trailing by two through three and a half innings and by one after seven complete frames. However, ETSU came through in the clutch to tie things up at three in the eighth when Green was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and moved to second on a single by Clinton Freeman (Jonesborough, Tenn.). From there, Kevin Phillips (St. Louis, Mo.) moved the runners into scoring position by laying down his first sacrifice bunt of the year – and after Derek Niesman (Wellington, Fla.) was hit in the forearm – Alex Reynolds (Johnson City, Tenn.) brought in Green on a fielder’s choice grounder to short.
USC Upstate threatened in the ninth as Chesney hit Jordan Stampler, while his throwing error on a sac-bunt attempt by Gaither Bumgardner put two Spartan runners on with only one out. However, Chesney regained his composure after the error and worked out of the tense situation by forcing Luke Weber to fly out to shallow center and he ended the inning by inducing Brody Greer to pop out to second.
Following the strong defensive plays in the top of the inning, the Blue and Gold took advantage of some control issues from USC Upstate’s closer Chad Sobotka. The second team all-conference relief pitcher selection walked the first two ETSU batters he faced, which led to Dylan Tritsch (Boca Raton, Fla.) laying down another sacrifice bunt to move the winning run over to third with one out. After fouling off the first pitch and taking a ball on the second, Green’s chopper through the pulled in Spartan infield brought his Buccaneer teammates out of the dugout to celebrate another wild victory.
The Bucs trailed early on as USC Upstate struck first as Weber started a two-out rally in the top of the first with a double to left and he came around to score on Greer’s bloop single to shallow right, giving the Spartans a 1-0 lead.
USC Upstate tacked on its second run in the fourth when Rice walked Jordan Stampler with the bases loaded to make it a 2-0 score, but the junior hurler did a great job limiting the damage to the lone run as he forced Bumgardner to line into an inning-ending double play. Bumgardner lined a 0-2 pitch to Freeman and the Buccaneer first baseman fired a strike to Chris Riopedre (Miami, Fla.) at second to double up Tyler Miller.
The Bucs then carried the momentum over to the bottom half of the inning as the Blue and Gold plated a pair of runs on only one hit to pull even at two. Phillips led off the inning with a walk and advanced to third on Niesman’s single through the right side. From there, Phillips scored when Greer was charged with a throwing error on Reynolds’ grounder to short, and Niesman scored the tying run on Hershey’s RBI ground out.
The Buccaneer offense was held in check for the next three innings as USC Upstate starter David Roseboom retired nine of the ten ETSU batters he faced during the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings.
With Roseboom keeping the Blue and Gold off the board, the Spartans regained a lead in the sixth when Trey Richardson’s one-out double down the line in left plated Daniel Seeba to put USC Upstate back ahead, 3-2. Burton bounced back in a big way after the RBI double as the ETSU left-hander retired eight of the final nine hitters he faced to keep the Bucs’ deficit at one run, leading to the late-inning fireworks by the Blue and Gold.
Six different Buccaneer batters accounted for the hits on the afternoon. Niesman extended his hit streak to 15 straight games after recording a single in the two-run fourth, while Green has now reached base safely in 21 straight games. Also, Reynolds went 1-for-4 and had two of ETSU’s four RBI.
Roseboom earned a no-decision despite allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits in seven innings, and Sobotka (1-5) was dealt the loss after allowing the one run on one hit and walking two in 1.1 innings out of the bullpen.
Four Spartan batters finished with two-hit games and the six-thru-nine hitters went 7-for-14 with two runs scored and an RBI.
USC Upstate was eliminated from the tournament and finished the season with a record of 28-30.
The Bucs now await their foe in Sunday’s championship as ETSU will either face North Florida or Kennesaw State (currently in progress). Should Kennesaw State win, both teams will play an elimination game on Sunday at 1 p.m., while the winning team will then play the Bucs in a single-game championship at 4:15 p.m. Sunday marks the second championship appearance by the Blue and Gold, as ETSU advanced to the title game in 2006.
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