JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 15, 2013) – Junior Clinton Freeman (Jonesborough, Tenn.) belted a pair of solo home runs, but it wasn’t enough to lift the ETSU baseball team to victory as Penn State rallied past the Bucs, 6-4, in the 2013 season opener on Friday afternoon at Thomas Stadium.
Prior to first pitch a dedication ceremony was held to honor the Thomas family and those who helped build the home of Buccaneer baseball. Following the ceremony, fans were treated to pregame festivities prior to first pitch and the Buccaneer faithful saw the Blue and Gold take a 3-2 lead into the top of the eighth inning. However, J.C. Coban stole the headlines and silenced the 910 fans when his two-out bases clearing double pulled the Nittany Lions back ahead, 5-3. Penn State tacked on an insurance run in the ninth – and despite Freeman connecting on a 400-plus foot shot to straightaway center in the bottom of the inning – ETSU’s comeback fell short as Casey Kulina earned the save after striking out the last two Buccaneer hitters.
Penn State (1-0) was led by Coban’s three-hit day, while Cody Lewis earned the win by tossing 1.2 innings of no-hit ball in relief. Meanwhile, Freeman powered ETSU with a three-hit performance (two homers and a triple), while senior catcher Mason Hershey (Altoona, Pa.) put the Bucs on the board with a solo blast in the third. Senior right hander Kerry Doane (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) got the starting nod for ETSU and earned a no-decision after allowing two runs (one earned) on seven hits in six innings of work. Unfortunately, junior newcomer Jared Burton (Knoxville, Tenn.) suffered the loss after being charged with three unearned runs on one hit in 1.1 innings of relief. Burton did issue three walks (one intentional).
The Bucs (0-1) were haunted by four errors and had one slip away as four of Penn State’s six runs were unearned. The first Nittany Lion run crossed the plate in the top of the third when Steve Snyder reached on a throwing error by Doane to start off the frame, and on the very next play, sophomore shortstop Chris Riopedre (Miami, Fla.) let a grounder from Luis Montesinos go right through his legs, giving Snyder the chance to easily score from second.
After bouncing back from the consecutive errors made in the top of the inning, Hershey quickly pulled the Blue and Gold even at one in the bottom half of the inning by sending a towering fly ball over the wall in left-center.
The lead shifted to Penn State’s side in the top of the fourth when James Coates worked the count full and drove in Ryky Smith with an RBI single to center. However, after putting the first three Nittany Lion hitters on to start the frame, Doane worked out of the jam and left runners stranded on second and third by getting Montesinos to fly out to right.
Once again the Bucs showed their resiliency in the bottom of the inning, as Freeman led off the frame with a triple to center and scored on Derek Niesman’s (Wellington, Fla.) sacrifice fly to right to pull even at two.
With Penn State leaving runners stranded in scoring position in both the fifth and sixth innings, ETSU managed to finally take its first lead of the afternoon in the sixth, courtesy of the first Freeman home run, putting the Blue and Gold ahead 3-2.
From there, Doane’s day was done and Burton entered to start the seventh. After working out of a jam in his first inning of action, the Buccaneer bullpen couldn’t work the same magic in the eighth as Burton left the game with one out and the bases loaded. The ball was turned over to Will Chesney (Knoxville, Tenn.), and with a full count and nowhere to put J.J. White, the junior sidearmer reared back and struck out the Penn State hitter swinging. ETSU would have been out of the inning following the punch out, but an error by Alex Reynolds (Johnson City) earlier prolonged the inning and led to Coban’s three-run double, making it a 5-3 ballgame.
Penn State added to its lead with a sac-fly RBI in the ninth and Freeman was only able to cut the Buccaneer deficit to a pair of runs with his second solo round-tripper of the game in ninth.
In the end, the Nittany Lions out-hit the Bucs, 11-5, as Smith (3-for-4) and Coates (2-for-3) joined Coban with multi-hit games. Freeman was the lone Buccaneer to generate multiple hits as registered his 29th multi-hit game of his career.
Game two of the weekend series resumes on Saturday afternoon at 1:05 p.m. from Thomas Stadium.
- Clinton Freeman recorded his first multi-homer game of his career on Friday and has now hit three home runs in his last two games dating back to last season
- Freeman – who ended the 2012 season with a three-game hitting streak – extended the mark to four consecutive games with his triple in the fourth inning
- Andrew Green has also now hit safely in four straight games after reaching on an infield single in the third inning
- Freshman lefty Josh Jacques (Rollinsford, N.H.) tossed one inning of perfect ball in his collegiate debut out of the bullpen
- Today marked the first-ever meeting between ETSU and Penn State
For more information on Buccaneer baseball, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the baseball page.