JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 14, 2014) – After being forced to push the start of the season back a day due to snow, the ETSU baseball team is ready to hit the field as the Blue and Gold open the 2014 campaign against Longwood on Saturday afternoon at Thomas Stadium.
The Bucs host the Big South Conference foe this weekend beginning at 1:05 p.m. Saturday. ETSU and the Lancers will also play at 1:05 p.m. on Sunday and Monday.
PITCHING ROTATION / GAME TIMES
Saturday – 1:05 p.m. – Game No. 1
LHP Clinton Freeman (7-1, 3.04)* vs. RHP Aaron Myers (4-2, 3.30)
Sunday – 1:05 p.m. – Game No. 2
RHP Jimmy Nesselt (2-3, 4.21)* vs. LHP Brandon Vick (6-5, 3.95)
Monday – 1:05 p.m. – Game No. 3
RHP Griffin Krieg (2-5, 7.69)* vs. TBA (5-2, 2.98)
ABOUT THE BUCS
- The Bucs, who posted 36 wins and made their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance, went 17-10 in conference play to finish fourth last season. The 36 wins were tied for the third-most in program history, while the 17 league wins are the most by the Bucs since joining the A-Sun in 2006.
- ETSU returns 25 players from last season’s championship squad, including preseason All-America selection Clinton Freeman (Jonesborough, Tenn.). In addition to Freeman, sophomores Jeremy Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.) and Kevin Phillips (St. Louis, Mo.) return for a second season, while Dylan Tritsch (Boca Raton, Fla.) is back for his final year in the Blue and Gold. Taylor and Phillips landed A-Sun All-Freshman Team honors in 2013, while Tritsch hit .324 (72-222) with 11 doubles, two triples, two home runs, 21 stolen bases and 37 runs scored in his first season with the Bucs. Tritsch was recently named the A-Sun’s “Top Baserunner” in the CollegeBaseballInsider.com preview. Meanwhile, Taylor, an A-Sun All-Tournament Team member, posted 12 doubles, 20 stolen bases and 45 runs scored.
- Freeman will help bolster a pitching staff which lost A-Sun Pitcher of the Year and First Team Louisville Slugger All-America Kerry Doane (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.). Doane, who was taken in the 24th round of the MLB Draft by the Cleveland Indians, went 13-2 with a 2.14 ERA (35 ER/147.0 IP) and tossed four shutouts and 12 complete games. Freeman posted a 7-1 mark with a 3.04 ERA (19 ER/56.1 IP) in 25 appearances (three starts), but was 6-0 with a 0.65 ERA (3 ER/41.1 IP) in 22 appearances out of the bullpen and also converted all eight of his save opportunities. ETSU also returns strong relievers in seniors Will Chesney (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Jared Burton (Knoxville, Tenn.), while Logan Rice (Erwin, Tenn.), Jimmy Nesselt (Plantation, Fla.), Josh Jacques (Rollinsford, N.H.) and Griffin Krieg (Nashville, Tenn.) provided the Bucs with valuable innings in the starting rotation. Derek Bushey (Richmond, Va.) returns for a final season after battling arm issues over the past year and a half, and the red-shirt senior right-hander will begin the season as ETSU’s closer.
- With the Blue and Gold losing five key seniors from their 2013 championship roster in Doane, Andrew Green (Powell, Tenn.), Alex Reynolds (Johnson City, Tenn.), Derek Niesman (Wellington, Fla.) and Mason Hershey (Altoona, Pa.), head coach Tony Skole and his staff were busy on the recruiting circuit and brought in 10 new players. Green started all 60 games for the Bucs in 2013 and was named second team All A-Sun, while Reynolds and Niesman joined Doane and Taylor on the All-Tournament Team. Hershey started 54 games behind the plate for the Blue and Gold and registered 11 doubles, three home runs and 21 RBI.
- The 10 newcomers, which are all freshman, include pitcher/infielder Chris Cook (Kingsport, Tenn.), pitcher/outfielder Jamin McCann (Kingsport, Tenn.), catcher/infielder Gage Downey (Franklin, Tenn.), infielder Zach Mize (Gainesville, Ga.), pitchers Dillon Cate (Sevierville, Tenn.), Connor Bartow (Jonesborough, Tenn.), and Austin Hutchison (Jefferson County, Tenn.), outfielders Sam Jokerst (Atlanta), Brandon Moss (Atlanta), and Neil Peterson (Waynesville, N.C.).
- The Bucs play 35 of their 56 games at home this season, including weekend series with 2013 NCAA Tournament participants Canisius (Feb. 28-March 2) and Mercer (May 15-17). Bryant – the reigning Northeast Conference champion – visits Thomas Stadium for a three-game series from March 14-16. In addition, 2013 Southern Conference regular season champion Western Carolina comes to town on March 19, while Tennessee makes its annual visit to Johnson City on April 22. Overall, the Bucs’ 2014 schedule features three teams who advanced to the NCAA Tournament a year ago, along with 12 programs that posted 30-plus win seasons in 2013.
- ETSU was picked to finish four in the A-Sun Preseason Coaches’ Poll.
- The Lancers posted a 26-28 record in 2013 and finished seventh in their first season in the Big South Conference after going 12-12.
- Longwood returns 17 lettermen, including seven returning position starters and eight pitchers for first-year head coach Brian McCullough, who was a four-year starting pitcher for the Lancers from 2004-07. McCullough replaces Charles Buddy Bolding, who led Longwood to 953 victories in 35 seasons at the helm.
- The Lancers return their top three hitters from last season, including sophomore outfielder Kyri Washington, who led the team with six home runs and 37 RBI. Matt Dickason, a senior infielder, returns for his final year at Longwood after pacing the Lancers with a .331 batting average (60-181) in 2013. Senior two-way player Scott Burkett played in all 54 games a year ago, and led the team with 62 hits and ranked second with a .304 batting average.
- Longwood was picked to finish fifth in the Big South North Division.
SERIES VS. LONGWOOD
- This marks the first-ever meeting between the two programs.
- Live stats will be available for all three games this weekend via StatBroadcast by visiting ETSUBucs.com. Fans can access live stats on their computers, mobile devices or tablets.
- Live updates will also be posted on Twitter by following @ETSUAthletics and @ETSU_Baseball.
The Valentine’s Day promotion that was scheduled for Friday was moved to Saturday. Fans are encouraged to Tweet why they “Love” ETSU baseball to either @ETSUAthletics or @ETSU_Baseball using the hashtag (#BuckyLove). For those who don’t have Twitter, ETSU marketing staff will have paper hearts for fans to fill out saying why they "Love" ETSU baseball at the game on Saturday.
The prizes include: a one-night stay at The Carnegie Hotel, lunch for two at Wellington’s, and a one-hour massage at Austin Springs Spa. The winners will be determined by those who come up with the most creative reasons why they love ETSU baseball and will be announced at the game on Saturday.
A LOOK AHEAD
- The Bucs have a quick turnaround as ETSU will play four games in four days as the Bucs host Furman Tuesday afternoon at 3:05 p.m.
- Single-game tickets to ETSU baseball games are $10 for reserved seats behind home plate and $5 for reserved seats along the baselines.
- Single-game tickets are $2 for groups of 10 or more people. Please call (423) 439-4828 for details.
- Tickets can be purchased at the stadium, online at ETSUBucs.com, or by calling (423) 439-3878.
- Come out to Thomas Stadium early and tailgate prior to ETSU baseball games this season. A designated tailgating area will be roped off in the parking lot where fans can enjoy a festive environment before the Bucs take the field.
- Click here for tailgating guidelines.
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For more information on Buccaneer baseball, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the baseball page.