JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 17, 2013) – First Indiana. Now Penn State.
For the second straight season the ETSU baseball team took a series from a Big Ten foe as the Bucs used a seven-run fifth to defeat Penn State in the rubber match, 9-7, on a chilly Sunday afternoon from Thomas Stadium.
Junior Clinton Freeman (Jonesborough, Tenn.) continued his hot streak at the plate and followed that up with a save effort in the ninth. Freeman – who torched Penn State pitchers all weekend – finished the series hitting .800 (8-10) with a double, triple, three home runs, five RBIs, and seven runs scored. The Jonesborough, Tenn. native put the Bucs up 2-0 in the first inning on Sunday with a two-run blast to right-center and entered to record the final out in the ninth to earn the save.
Despite being out-hit, 14-4, ETSU got a quality start from sophomore Jimmy Nesselt (Plantation, Fla.), while the Blue and Gold also capitalized on three errors by the Nittany Lions. Nesselt earned the win after issuing three runs on eight hits in seven innings. The sophomore righty also struck out four and allowed zero walks. Meanwhile, at the plate sophomore Zach Thompson (Johnson City, Tenn.) fueled the charge in the fifth with a two-run scoring double to right-center, while freshman Trey York (Knoxville, Tenn.) also brought in a pair of Buccaneer runners when he doubled down the line in left later on in the frame.
For the first time in the series the Bucs scored first courtesy of the Freeman’s third home run of the weekend, which gave the Blue and Gold an early 2-0 lead as Andrew Green (Powell, Tenn.) – who reached on an error by Matt Paradise at third to leadoff the inning – scored ahead of Freeman on the blast.
Penn State battled back and pulled even at two as the Nittany Lions received a pair of two-out RBI singles from James Coates and Luis Montesinos in the third.
From there, Nesselt retired the next four Penn State hitters he faced, and after working out of a jam in the top of the fifth, ETSU’s offense gave the Plantation, Fla. native enough offense to work with.
The Nittany Lions had runners on the corners with two outs in the top of the fifth when second baseman Derek Niesman (Wellington, Fla.) made a strong defensive play on a grounder from Montesinos, but Niesman made the flip to Chris Riopedre (Miami, Fla.) covering second to get the force and end the inning without Steve Snyder scoring the go-ahead run.
Following the play in the infield, the Bucs hit around in the bottom half of the inning and stole any momentum away from Penn State as ETSU went ahead, 9-2. The first three ETSU hitters reached, and with nobody out and the bases loaded, senior Mason Hershey (Altoona, Pa.) drove in the first run of the frame on an RBI ground out to third. Again, the Bucs loaded the bases after freshman Kevin Phillips (St. Louis, Mo.) worked a four-pitch walk, which led to the heroics from Thompson and York. Sandwiched in between the two-run doubles from Thompson and York, was a sac-fly RBI from Niesman. In total, four of the seven runs in the inning were unearned as ETSU took advantage of two Penn State errors in the inning.
With the Bucs holding onto the seven run lead things looked to be in control, but the Nittany Lions threw one final scare into the Blue and Gold before Freeman entered to shut the door on the visitors from University Park in the ninth. Penn State struck for a run in the seventh on a sacrifice fly RBI and added two more in the eighth to make it a 9-5 game. Then, Friday’s villain, J.C. Coban, struck again in the top of the ninth when his two-run homer to left-center cut the Penn State deficit to two. However, with two outs and the tying run at the plate, Freeman forced Aaron Navok to hit a liner into center and a hustling catch by Green ended the threat to give ETSU the series win.
Patton Taylor was dealt the loss after getting the starting nod for the Nittany Lions. Taylor surrendered eight runs (three earned) on three hits in 4.1 innings of action. Penn State’s 1-4 hitters combined for 11 of its 14 hits and drove in four the seven runs.
The Bucs return to action on Tuesday afternoon when ETSU hosts Wofford at 3:05 p.m., from Thomas Stadium.
For more information on Buccaneer baseball, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the baseball page.