HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. (April 6, 2013) – The ETSU baseball team likes to save its best for last.
Trailing 9-1 through seven complete innings, the Buccaneer offense finally broke out of their conundrum by scoring 11 unanswered runs to cap off a monumental come-from-behind win, as ETSU defeated the Norse, 12-9 in 10 innings, on Saturday afternoon from the Bill Aker Baseball Complex.
The Bucs – who have outscored their opponents 44-15 from the eighth inning on this season – improved to 17-11, 6-5 in A-Sun play following the three-run victory, while NKU dropped to 4-26, 1-7. In addition, ETSU improved to 3-0 in extra-inning games en route to winning the series from the Norse, along with marking its fourth win when trailing after six innings this season.
After being held to only five hits in the first seven innings, the Blue and Gold pounded out 11 hits during the late-inning rally as six different ETSU players registered multi-hit games. Junior Clinton Freeman (Jonesborough, Tenn.) drove in ETSU’s first run of the game and the final three runs to finish 3-for-5 with a double, two runs scored and a career-high six RBI. Meanwhile, fellow junior Dylan Tritsch (Boca Raton, Fla.) generated a career-high four hits in six at-bats and scored two runs. Rounding out the hit parade with two hits each were Andrew Green (Powell, Tenn.) Tyler Roach (Knoxville, Tenn.), Alex Reynolds (Johnson City, Tenn.) and Mason Hershey (Altoona, Pa.).
ETSU used six pitchers to rally for the thrilling comeback victory as junior righty Will Chesney (Knoxville, Tenn.) earned the win (2-1) and Freeman picked up his fourth save of the year. Chesney tossed two scoreless innings of two-hit ball while striking out two, and Freeman worked the final inning as he struck out Cody Kuzniczci swinging to end the game.
The Blue and Gold had no answer for left-handed starter Matt Jefferson early on and Northern Kentucky took full advantage by jumping out to a 7-0 lead through five innings of play.
Despite plating its first run with a two-out RBI single from Freeman in the sixth, ETSU gave up two runs in the bottom half of the inning to see the Norse take a 9-1 advantage.
However, the Bucs continued to battle and never gave up, as momentum started to shift by scoring all five eighth-inning runs with two outs to cut the deficit to three, 9-6. Hershey began the rally by ripping a double to left and ETSU quickly loaded the bases as Jeremy Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.) reached on a fielding error at short and Freeman was hit by a pitch. The Blue and Gold took full use of the prolonged inning when Green doubled in the first two unearned runs, while Roach made it a 9-4 score when his rocket single back to the pitcher plated Freeman. From there, Chris Riopedre (Miami, Fla.) reached on NKU’s second error of the frame at third which scored Green, while Reynolds wrapped up the scoring plays when his RBI single up the middle brought home Roach, making it a three-run ballgame.
The Buccaneer pitchers hung up another goose egg in the bottom of the eighth, courtesy of Hershey throwing out Josh Myers as he tried to steal third to keep all the energy on the visitor’s side of the field. The caught stealing play was critical as Myers would have later scored on a double by Kuzniczci, but Chesney forced Bradley Vanderglas into an inning-ending fly out to center to keep the Norse off the board.
In the ninth, Taylor was hit in the arm to lead off the frame and he sprinted to third on Tritsch’s sixth double of the campaign, giving Freeman another RBI opportunity. The two-way standout player came through yet again as his single to center made it a one-run game with still no outs recorded in the inning. Freeman moved over to third when Green and Roach both grounded out to first; however, as they did in the eighth ETSU came through with another two-out RBI in ninth to pull even at nine. With two outs and Freeman at third, Riopedre took the first pitch he saw off reliever Brett Loeding and laced a single into right to score Freeman, while Chesney retired three of the four NKU hitters he faced in the bottom of the inning to force extra innings.
ETSU wasted little time jumping ahead in the extra fame as the Bucs pushed across three runs on four hits in the top of the tenth to take their first lead of the contest, 12-9. Hershey’s one-out single to right started the offense, while Taylor reached on a questionable error by Loeding as the NKU pitcher had trouble fielding his drag bunt down the first base line. Then, after Tritsch singled to load the bases, Freeman stepped up with a key bases clearing double to the gap in left-center to put the Blue and Gold on top by three runs.
With Freeman doing the damage at the plate in the top of the inning, the left-handed hurler was called upon to close out the game in the bottom of the tenth. Despite putting the first two NKU hitters on via singles, Freeman worked out of the jam by forcing Logan Spurlin to hit into a 4-6-3 double play, while getting Kuzniczci out swinging for the final out of the game.
Jefferson earned the no-decision after allowing six runs (one earned) on nine hits in 7.2 innings, whereas, Loeding suffered the loss (1-4) after being charged with six runs (five earned) on seven hits in 2.1 innings out of the pen.
The Norse tallied a season-high 18 hits in the losing effort with Myers and Brad Clement finish with four-hit games. Caleb Lonkard, Hunter Morey and Vanderglas each had two-RBI games for NKU.
The Bucs go for the series sweep on Sunday as ETSU sends junior right-hander Logan Rice (Erwin, Tenn.) to the hill and NKU answers with senior righty Blake Bagshaw. Game time is set for noon.
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