JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (April 30, 2014) – After tying the game at four in the bottom of the eighth, ETSU junior shortstop Chris Riopedre (Miami, Fla.) capped off the comeback win an inning later when his walk-off triple scored Clinton Freeman (Jonesborough, Tenn.), giving the Bucs a 5-4 victory over Radford on a rainy Wednesday night at Thomas Stadium.
In a game where the lead changed hands three times, the Bucs used late-inning drama to end a four-game losing skid as Andrew Lasure’s (Stanford, Ky.) two-out double in the eighth scored Trey York (Knoxville, Tenn.), while Riopedre’s one-out triple down the line in right stayed fair by a matter of inches, marking ETSU’s fourth walk-off win of the season.
After waiting out a 27-minute rain delay in the top of the third, the Bucs finally broke through with a run in the fourth and took their first lead with a two-run sixth. However, the Highlanders – who were looking to sweep the season series – jumped back ahead, 4-3, following a two-run seventh, but seniors Logan Rice (Erwin, Tenn.) and Will Chesney (Knoxville, Tenn.) silenced Radford’s offense to allow the dramatic win for the Blue and Gold. Rice tossed 1.2 scoreless innings and struck out two, while Chesney earned the win (3-2) after pitching a perfect ninth.
Overall, Riopedre reached base four times as he went 3-for-4 with the triple and a walk, while Chris Cook (Kingsport, Tenn.) extended his hit streak to 12 straight games after posting a two-out single in the fifth. Freeman, who scored from first on Riopedre’s triple, ended with a pair of hits and Kevin Phillips (St. Louis, Mo.) went 2-for-4 with a double, run scored and an RBI. Trey York (Knoxville, Tenn.) ignited the rally by beating out a two-out infield single in the eighth and has now hit safely in eight consecutive games.
The Bucs, who suffered a walk-off loss last Sunday at Kennesaw State, improved to 21-22, while Radford dropped to 25-18.
The game was tightly contested from the get-go as neither team led by more than a run the entire night. After both teams left runners stranded in scoring position in the first, Radford scored the first run as Hunter Higgerson led off the second inning with a home run to take a 1-0 lead, but Derek Bushey (Richmond, Va.) regrouped by striking out two of the next three hitters he faced to end the inning.
The Bucs pulled even at one in the fourth when Phillips laced a one-out double off the wall in straightaway center and scored on Jordan Sanford’s (Powell, Tenn.) RBI single.
Radford regained a 2-1 lead in the sixth when Josh Gardiner led off with an infield single, stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch by Austin Hutchison (Jefferson County, Tenn.). Gardiner finally came home on a sac-fly by Blake Sipe, putting the Highlanders back up by a run.
The see-saw affair continued as the Blue and Gold plated a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth and took their first lead of the night, 3-2. The first three hitters reached for the Bucs as Riopedre and Tyler Roach (Knoxville, Tenn.) walked, while Phillips drove in Riopedre with an RBI single to left. ETSU took the lead when Zach Mize (Gainesville, Ga.) drove in the go-ahead run with an RBI groundout to third.
The Blue and Gold were unable to hold the lead as the Highlanders scratched across two runs in the top of the seventh to go up, 4-3. Radford scored its first run when Jared Burton (Knoxville, Tenn.) was charged with a balk and went ahead on an RBI single by pinch hitter Josh Reavis.
Fortunately, ETSU has a flair for the dramatic as the Bucs fought back with clutch two-out hitting in the eighth, which led to Riopedre’s walk-off heroics in the ninth. Following a one-out single by Freeman, Riopedre’s dropped one down the line in right and Freeman hustled home to beat the tag at the plate.
Radford’s Ryan Meisinger suffered his first loss of the year (4-1) as he was charged with the one run on two hits in the ninth.
Gardiner and Higgerson both finished with two hits as the Highlanders were out-hit, 11-6.
The Bucs continue their homestand this weekend as ETSU hosts USC Upstate in a three-game conference series, beginning Friday night at 7:05 p.m. at Thomas Stadium.
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