JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 16, 2012) – The ETSU baseball team, under the direction of 13th year head coach Tony Skole, is set to open the 2012 season inside brand new Thomas Stadium with a three-game series against Eastern Kentucky beginning on Friday.
Game times will be at 1:05 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Admission will be free for the entire weekend and for fans unable to attend live stats can be followed via Gametracker on ETSUBucs.com.
ETSU is coming off one of its most successful seasons in school history – a year in which the team compiled a 36-21 record – the most wins for the squad since the 1981 season.
The Bucs return a strong group from the 2011 team. Of the nine position players that started at least 20 games in 2011, six will be returning, including seniors Matthew Scruggs (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Dylan Pratt (Johnson City, Tenn.) and juniors Kerry Doane (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) and Andrew Green (Powell, Tenn.).
In addition to the core of field position players returning, the Bucs also return three of their four starting pitchers from a year ago. That group is led by senior John Long (Anderson, S.C.) and junior Derek Bushey (Richmond, Va.). Bushey, a 2011 Second-Team All-Atlantic Sun selection, is coming off an injury and is being slowly worked back in the starting rotation.
Long, who was 6-6 with a 5.09 ERA in 2011, will get the start in the season opener on Friday. Sophomore Clinton Freeman (Jonesborough, Tenn.) will get the ball on Saturday and Long’s brother Jake Long (Anderson, S.C.) will make his first start in an ETSU uniform on Sunday.
Eastern Kentucky is coming off a 21-36 campaign in 2011, but the Colonels do return all nine position starters from last season. EKU has been picked by league head coaches to finish sixth in the OVC this season.
The Colonels are led by the trio of Richie Rodriguez, Jacob Daniel and Bryan Soloman. Rodriguez is a two-time All-OVC selection and led the squad with a .357 average in 2011. Daniel, who was a preseason All-OVC selection, hit .337 with nine home runs and a team-high 44 RBIs last season. Soloman started all 56 games last year and he finished the season with a team-best 17 doubles, nine home runs and 40 RBI on his way to being named the OVC Freshman of the Year and a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball.
ETSU and Eastern Kentucky have met 82 times through the years with the Colonels leading the all-time series 49-32-1. ETSU did win the last meeting between the two schools – earning an 18-7 victory at Eastern Kentucky last year.
The Bucs are 4-8 in season openers during Skole’s tenure, but the team has earned opening day victories in two of the last three seasons. ETSU defeated Marist to open the season last year. Meanwhile, the Bucs sport a 9-3 record in home openers with Skole at the helm. Skole’s teams have outscored their opponents 73-59 in home openers during the last 12 seasons; however, five of the 12 home openers have been decided by just one run. The Bucs are a perfect 5-0 in one-run home openers during the last 12 seasons.
Fans will be asked to park in the ETSU student parking lot on the corner of State of Franklin Road and University Parkway. ETSU will provide a free shuttle service from the parking lot to the stadium prior to the game. In addition, limited handicap parking on Lee Street, which is on the stadium grounds, will be available.
Meanwhile, fans may bring lawn chairs to the game as limited seating will be available. All spectators will be seated along the third base side of the field. Admission will is free for each game.
For more information on ETSU baseball, please visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the baseball link.