Johnson City, Tenn. -- The East Tennessee State baseball team used two bottom-of-the-ninth inning rallies to sweep a dramatic Southern Conference doubleheader against Davidson at ETSU’s Cardinal Park. In the first game senior Andy Baxter delivered a game-winning single in a 9-8 win and in the second game junior Brandon Cross was plunked with the bases loaded to seal a 3-2 victory.
The Buccaneer offense was geared by four player who had identical hitting stats in both games. Senior Ryan McKinney went 2-5, Baxter went 2-5, senior Nathan Copeland went 2-4 and junior Brandon Cross went 2-3 in both games of the doubleheader. Copeland launched a pair of two-run homers in the first game to key the charge.
After a scoreless first in the series opener, Davidson grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Cassidy Lundin singled and moved to second on a D.J. Dailey sacrifice. The next batter, Stephen Aldrich, hit a rocket into left field that scored Lundin. ETSU responded with two runs in the bottomof the inning when Scott Rose’s double scored Cross and Chad Boruff.
Davidson’s James Marino hit a two-run shot over the rightfield wall in the third to give the Wildcats a 3-2 lead. Copeland answered with a two-run homer of his own, that put ETSU ahead 4-3 after three innings. In his next at bat, Copeland belted another two-run shot to right to give the Bucs a 6-3 lead in the fifth.
ETSU added two more in the sixth on RBI singles from Rose and McKinney. Davidson’s Jack Purcell hit a three-run homer in the top of the seventh to close the lead to 8-6. Davidson mounted a two-out rally in the ninth to knot the game 8-8. Tim Frend walked, followed by singles from James Marino and Matt Berry to start the rally. Billy Ryan followed with a clutch two-run single to center before Buc reliever Bryan Crouse notched the third out.
Baxter won the game with a single in the bottom of the ninth that scored McKinney. McKinney led off the frame with a double and moved to third on a Davidson error. Baxter followed with his third game-winning hit of the season.
The Wildcats also took a 1-0 lead in the second game, when Berry singled home Ryan Stroker in the first. The Bucs tied the game with a run in the second. Nathan Copeland led off the frame with a double and scored on a Rose single.
The game remained tied 1-1 until Davidson’s Dylan Deal smacked a two-out, solo home run to left field in the eighth. ETSU started strong in its half of the eighth when Baxter laced a shot off the rightfield wall. The ball carromed back quickly and the first baseman was held to a single. After a wild pitch moved Baxter into scoring position, Copeland drew a walk off Wildcat reliever Ryan Stroker. Cross sacrificed the runners to second and third but Davidson’s Tim Frend struck out Rose. Hampered by a wrist injury, sophomore Boruff pinch hit and drew a walk to load the bases. Baxter scored the tying run on a wild pitch.
In the ninth, with one out and runners on first and second senior Baxter entered the batter’s box for a chance to win the game...again. Baxter flew out to left field and senior Nathan Copeland approached with a chance to be a hero. After Copeland singled to load the bases, junior Brandon Cross was hit on the hip which forced in the game-winning run.
East Tennessee State and Davidson will complete their three-game set tomorrow with a single game beginning at 1 p.m.