JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (May 23, 2004) - With excellent pitching by senior lefty Josh Kite (Greeneville, Tenn.) and timely hitting, East Tennessee State defeated Furman in the final game of the regular season, 5-2, Sunday afternoon from Cardinal Park in Johnson City, Tenn.
East Tennessee State (28-28, 15-15 Southern Conference) took the early lead with a single run in the second inning and two more runs in the third. With one out in the second, senior shortstop Andy Howdeshell (Maryville, Tenn.) belted hit 11th home run of the season over the right-center field wall. The blast was Howdeshell's third of the series.
Senior center fielder Tim Turner (Marietta, Ga.) led off the second with a double to right-center. With one out, sophomore right fielder Shane Byrne (Johnson City, Tenn.) laced another double to right-center, driving in Turner. After moving to third on a wild pitch, Byrne crossed the plate on a ground out by junior catcher Caleb Moore (Knoxville, Tenn.).
The Bucs added to their lead as they manufactured a run in the bottom of the fifth. Senior third baseman Troy Moock (Baton Rouge, La.) walked to lead off the inning, stole second and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Turner. Sophomore designated hitter Steven Calicutt (Spartanburg, S.C.) scored Moock with a with a clutch single to right field.
ETSU scored their final run of the afternoon in the bottom of the seventh. With two outs, Byrne singled up the middle then scored as Moore lined his NCAA-leading 30th double off of the left-field wall.
Furman (21-33, 11-19 SoCon) rallied for two runs in the top of the eighth. Sam McLain led off the inning with a walk then was replaced at first by Nick Wajda. After a walk by Matthew Betsill, Craig Caudill lined a two-out double to left-center, driving in Wajda and Betsill.
But the Paladins could not complete their comeback, as Moore pitched a scoreless ninth, tying the ETSU record with his sixth save of the season.
Kite (3-3) was tremendous this afternoon, allowing no runs on four hits in six innings of work. He also walked four and struck out five. Junior righty Trevor Smith (Newport, Tenn.) also pitched a scoreless inning in relief, allowing no hits and striking out one.
"Josh Kite was phenomenal this afternoon," said Buccaneer head coach Tony Skole following the game. "For us to be successful, we need great starting pitching. And that is what Josh gave us today."
Matt Klinker (3-3) was charged with the loss, allowing four runs on four hits in five innings. He also walked two and struck out two on the day.
Howdeshell led the Bucs at the plate, going 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored while Byrne went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI. With his seventh-inning double, Moore extended his hitting streak to a team-best 19 games.
Nick Mershon went 2-for-4 for the Paladins while Caudill drove in two runs.
"Today was a must-win game for our baseball program," commented Skole. "We could not go into the conference tournament on a four-game losing streak."
East Tennessee State will now head to Charleston, S.C. for the Southern Conference Baseball Tournament, sponsored by the Virginia-Carolina Peanut Growers and the National Peanut Board. The sixth-seeded Bucs will face third-seeded The Citadel at 7:30 Wednesday evening.
"We are excited about going down to Charleston and facing The Citadel on Wednesday night," said Skole. "Traditionally that ball game is one of the greatest atmospheres that college baseball has to offer."