JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (May 4, 2014) – Senior left-hander Clinton Freeman (Jonesborough, Tenn.) recorded his ETSU record-setting 20th career save and freshman Chris Cook (Kingsport, Tenn.) scored the eventual game-winning run on a passed ball in the eighth inning as the Bucs completed a sweep of USC Upstate with a 5-2 win on Sunday afternoon at Thomas Stadium.
Freeman, the winning pitcher in Saturday’s 3-2 contest, pitched the final two innings to move past Bo Reeder (2009-11) for the all-time lead in saves. The Buccaneer southpaw allowed one run on two hits while striking out two en route to posting his 10th save of the campaign, tying him with Steven Calicutt (2006) for the third-most in ETSU single-season history.
Senior right-hander Logan Rice (Erwin, Tenn.) made his third start of the year and gave the Blue and Gold six gritty innings of work as he held the Spartans scoreless on six hits to take a no-decision. Rice, who also struck out four and walked two, work out of a one-out bases loaded jam in the fifth and left with a 1-0 lead after six complete innings. Despite giving up the tying run in the top of the seventh, senior Will Chesney (Knoxville, Tenn.) earned the win (4-2) as the Bucs plated the go-ahead run in the bottom of the inning.
For the second straight game ETSU was out-hit, 10-7, but like they did all series, the Buccaneer pitchers did an excellent job limiting the damage. USC Upstate, who went 5-for-30 with runners in scoring position on the weekend, finished 2-of-9 on Sunday.
Jordan Sanford (Powell, Tenn.) and Kevin Phillips (St. Louis, Mo.) both provided the Blue and Gold with two hits each, while Cook kept his hitting streak alive with a single in the eighth, marking the 15th consecutive game with at least one hit for the Buccaneer rookie. Sanford, who scored the game-winning run on Saturday, drove in a pair of insurance runs with a single in the eighth, while Phillips scored the first run of the game when freshman Gage Downey (Franklin, Tenn.) hit a bloop double to left in the fifth inning. Sanford’s two-RBI game tied a career high for the Buccaneer junior, marking the third time he has accomplished the feat.
Following the sweep, ETSU secured a spot in the 2014 A-Sun Championship as the Bucs improved to 24-22, 11-9 in conference play. The Bucs moved into a tie for fourth-place win Kennesaw State and have now won 14 of their last 17 games at home. Meanwhile, USC Upstate was dealt its ninth straight loss and moved to 14-33, 4-16.
Both Rice and Spartan starter Dylan Parker made quick work on the mound early in the contest, but after the Buccaneer right-hander escaped some damage in the fifth, ETSU finally scratched across the first run of the game on Downey’s two-out bloop double in the bottom of the inning.
USC Upstate threatened in the sixth when Luke Weber reached on a fielding error by Cook at third and moved to second on a sac-bunt by AJ Mackey. However, after Zach Krider poked a one-out single to right, Rice picked up his second double play of the game by inducing Stephen Dowling to hit into an inning-ending 5-4-3 twin killing.
The Spartans finally broke through in the seventh when Justin Allen led off the inning with a triple to right-center and scored on an RBI groundout from Daniel Fickas; however, the Bucs caught a break in the bottom of the frame to regain the lead. After Parker recorded two quick outs, Sanford kept the inning alive with a single and he came around to score when Allen dropped a routine fly from Trey York (Knoxville, Tenn.) in center, making it a 2-1 ballgame.
From there, Freeman moved to the mound in the eighth and worked a 1-2-3 inning, while he was given some needed insurance runs in the bottom half of the inning. Cook got things rolling with a one-out single – and after Freeman grounded out to second – Parker intentionally walked Chris Riopedre (Miami, Fla.). The plan didn’t work out for the Spartans as Tyler Roach (Knoxville, Tenn.) worked a six-pitch walk to load the bases and Cook scored when Weber was charged with a passed ball. For good measure, Sanford delivered the key two-RBI single later in the inning, which extended ETSU’s lead to, 5-1.
USC Upstate pushed across a run in the ninth, but Freeman closed out the game by striking out Daniel Seeba for the seventh time of the weekend to secure the win.
Parker suffered the loss (1-4) after allowing five runs (four earned) on six hits in 7.2 innings, while Fickas, Seeba and Allen all recorded multi-hit games for the Spartans. Fickas led all players with three hits.
The Bucs now embark on a four-game road swing beginning Wednesday night at Furman. First pitch is set for 5 p.m. at Latham Baseball Stadium.
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