Johnson City, Tenn. (May 19, 2002) - In the final regular season game in the Southern Conference baseball regular season, the Furman Paladins defeated East Tennessee State, 9-4, Sunday afternoon from Cardinal Park in Johnson City, Tenn.
The Buccaneers (21-34, 13-16 Southern Conference) took an early lead after putting a run on the board in the bottom of the second. Senior right fielder Kirk Keithley (Peoria, Ill.) led off the inning with a double to right-center. He would come home on a single up the middle by senior catcher Scott Rose (Soddy-Daisy, Tenn.) with one out.
Furman (23-32, 14-16 SoCon) roared back in the top of the fourth, scoring five runs to take the lead. Catcher Drew Latora and first baseman Domonic Frankey led off the inning with back-to-back singles and were knocked in on a subsequent double by left fielder Ryan Presnell. After advancing to third on a sacrifice bunt by shortstop Danny Rueckel, Presnell came home on a sacrifice fly to center field by designated player Brandon Barrett. Right fielder Cole Hubka then walked and following a pitching change, second baseman Clint Hill hit a bunt single. Center fielder Nick Wajda then singled to score Hubka and third baseman Derek Norman hit an infield single to plate Hill.
The score remained 5-1 in favor of the Paladins until the bottom of the sixth when ETSU would rally for three runs. Sophomore center fielder Tim Turner (Marietta, Ga.) led the inning off with a walk and went to third on a single by freshman left fielder Matt Traylor (Knoxville, Tenn.). Senior shortstop Jeremy Terry (Cumberland, Ky.) then singled to center to score Turner followed by a single by senior second baseman Brandon Cross (Bluff City, Tenn.), bringing home Traylor. After advancing to third on a bunt single by Keithley, Terry came home on when freshman third baseman Mike Giroud (St. Petersburg, Fla.) hit into a double play.
Furman answered the Buccaneer rally by scoring two runs of their own in the top of the seventh. Norman led the inning off with a walk and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Latora and an infield single by Frankey. Norman then came home on a single by Presnell and Frankey crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly by Barrett.
East Tennessee State made their last push for a comeback by loading the bases with one out in the bottom of the eighth. Terry reached on a fielder's choice with one out and went to second on a single to right field by Cross. Keithley then reached on an infield single, but the rally attempt was thwarted, as Furman starter Jeff Stovall was able to coax Giroud into a double-play ground ball.
The Paladins put the game away by putting two more runs on the board in the top of the ninth. Frankey reached on an error with one out. After a walk to Presnell, Rueckel singled to right field to load the bases. Pinch-hitter Richie Dean singled to center field to drive in Frankey. Presnell then scored as the next batter, pinch-hitter Craig Caudill, reached on an error.
Senior starter Jackson Simerly (Kingsport, Tenn.) took the loss (1-5) for the Bucs after allowing four runs and eight hits in 3.2 innings. Stovall got the win (6-2) for the Paladins, pitching eight innings and allowing four runs on nine hits.
Cross and Keithley led ETSU with three hits each. Three players collected RBI's in the game and four Bucs scored runs. Presnell was the star of the day for the Paladins as he went 4-for-4 with two runs scored and three RBI.
With the loss, East Tennessee State will be the No. 8 seed in next week's Southern Conference Baseball Tournament from Charleston, S.C. The Bucs will face No. 1-seeded The Citadel in Wendesday night's final game. With the win, Furman will be the No. 6 seed and take on No. 3-seeded College of Charleston in Wednesday's first game at 10 a.m.