Johnson City, Tenn. -- East Tennessee State's Matt Baber hurled his fourth consecutive complete game, allowing two runs on nine hits, to lead the Bucs in a 3-2 win against Western Carolina at ETSU's Cardinal Park.
Baber struck out eight and walked none to improve to 6-6 on the season. ETSU's Reid Casey hit his first career home run and went 2-4 on the day to spark the Buccaneer offense. Western Carolina's Austin Smithwick went 2-4 with an RBI to lead the visitors.
The Catamounts (11-28, 7-16 Southern Conference) opened the scoring in the first when a Smithwick single plated Rod Goldston. The Bucs (12-22, 9-11 Southern Conference) threatened in the third with runners on second and third and one out. However, Nathan Copeland popped to the pitcher and Danny Pugh was doubled-up off third.
Western Carolina took a 2-0 advantage in the top of the fourth. Jason Long began the frame with a single and later scored on a Chris Torres ground ball. Designated hitter Casey smacked a home run in the home half of the inning to cut the lead in half. It was just Casey's third at-bat of the season.
The game remained 2-1 until the bottom of the seventh when the Bucs struck for two and grabbed a 3-2 lead. Both Pugh and Chad Boruff reached on errors. Pugh later scored on a double from Copeland and Boruff came home on Ryan McKinney's game-winning single.
Before the top of the eighth the game was delayed 97 minutes because of rain.
After the delay, Baber retired the Cats in order. The Bucs loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth with one out, but a Copeland fielder's choice and a Raymond McBride strike out ended the opportunity.
In the ninth, Alan Beck reached on a Jeremy Terry error. Torres sacrificed Beck to second and then Beck was pulled for a pinch-runner. A Jeremy Hamrick ground ball moved Tracy Biggs to third. With two outs and Biggs on third, Baber fanned Charles Thomas to end the game.
Western starter Ryan Basner (6.0 innings, seven hits, one run) was relieved by Blake Gordon after the sixth. Gordon threw 1.0 innings, allowing the decisive two runs, to suffer the loss.
ETSU and Western Carolina conclude the three-game series tomorrow at 1 p.m.