JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (April 27, 2013) – After having its offense held in check last weekend at Stetson, the ETSU baseball team was ready to heat back up and get back on track in the conference race.
The Buccaneers did just that as the Blue and Gold battled the rainy and chilly elements to sweep a doubleheader from Kennesaw State on Saturday to win a series over the Owls for the first time since 2007.
In game one, Clinton Freeman (Jonesborough, Tenn.) went 3-for-4 with a double, home run and four RBI, while picking up the save in the 9-7 victory. Then, in the nightcap, the Buccaneer offense pounded out 14 hits and got seven strong innings from starter Logan Rice (Erwin, Tenn.) en route to capping off the sweep with an 8-2 win at Thomas Stadium.
Freeman – who was named to the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Watch List on Friday – showed the Buccaneer faithful why he was worthy of being among the prestigious group on Saturday. For the series, the Jonesborough, Tenn. native hit .583 (7-12) with one double, one home run and six RBI, along with closing out both games to earn his sixth save of the campaign. Freeman also reached a special milestone when his RBI single in the eighth inning of game two scored Andrew Green (Powell, Tenn.), marking the 100th RBI of his collegiate career. In addition, Chris Riopedre (Miami, Fla.) extended his hit streak to six straight games by going 5-for-10 with two runs scored in the series – including a career-high-tying 3-for-3 effort in game two of the doubleheader. Joining Freeman and Riopedre, was Green – who swung a hot bat and made stellar plays in center field. Green hit .462 (6-13) with four doubles, four RBI, and five runs scored, while also making three spectacular diving catches in center this weekend. Rounding out the offensive onslaught was the leadoff man – Jeremy Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.). Taylor reached base six times in the series – three singles, two doubles, one walk – and scored four runs.
Overall, the top four hitters in the ETSU lineup (Taylor, Green, Freeman, and Dylan Tritsch) went 19-for-33 with six doubles, one home run, 10 runs scored and 13 RBI in the doubleheader on Saturday.
Meanwhile, on the mound, Rice improved to 5-1 after allowing one run on six hits in a career-high seven innings pitched in the third game of the series, while Kerry Doane (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) won his sixth straight start to move his mark to 9-1 on the year. Despite giving up a season-high 13 hits in the first game of the twinbill, Doane got help by his defense as the Blue and Gold turned three double plays with the senior right-hander on the hill. Doane surrendered six runs (four earned) in his outing on Saturday and had his streak of tossing five consecutive complete games come to an end after throwing 105 pitches in the seven innings of work.
For the series, the Bucs hit .343 (34-99) with nine doubles, one home run, eight walks and were hit five times, while improving to 24-17, 13-8 in A-Sun play. Following the series win, ETSU remained in third-place behind Mercer (15-6) and conference-leader North Florida (13-4). Mercer and the Bucs both step out of conference play before squaring off May 10-12 down in Macon, Ga., for a three-game series.
GAME ONE RECAP
ETSU’s top four hitters went 9-for-15 with three extra base hits and six RBI, while Kerry Doane tossed seven innings to win his sixth straight start and the Blue and Gold held on for a 9-7 win in the first game of the doubleheader on Saturday.
Jeremy Taylor went a perfect 3-for-3 with two runs scored and Clinton Freeman belted his team-leading 10th home run, while the left-hander also struck out Kody Belcher swinging with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the ninth to earn his sixth save of the season. Joining Taylor and Freeman at the top of the order were Andrew Green and Dylan Tritsch. Green went 2-for-5 with a double and two runs scored and Tritsch reached base twice and scored a run.
With the game tied at two after two complete innings, the Bucs scored two runs in the third and fourth innings to grab momentum, and Taylor scored the eventual game-winning run when the Blue and Gold plated two runs on a throwing error by Kennesaw State’s first baseman Chris McGowan in the sixth inning.
The Owls struck for a run in the top of the first when Bo Way recorded a two-out double to left-center and scored on McGowan’s single up the middle, but the lead didn’t last long as Freeman’s two-out, two-run home run to right-center in the bottom half of the frame put the Blue and Gold ahead for the first time in the series, 2-1.
Once again, Kennesaw State showcased more two-out hitting an inning later when Brennan Morgan’s double to right scored Jacob Bruce, but the Owl runner was stranded at second when Doane forced Andy Almonte to hit into an inning-ending grounder to second.
From there, ETSU scored two runs in both the third and fourth innings to take the lead for good as the Blue and Gold led 6-2.
In the third, Andrew Green drove in the first run of the inning when his groundout to second scored Mason Hershey (Altoona, Pa.) and Freeman came through with his third RBI of the game as a single to right to give the Blue and Gold a two-run cushion. Hershey led off the inning with a walk, moved to second on Taylor’s bunt single, and both runners moved up a base on Tritsch’s sac-bunt.
An inning later, ETSU made another leadoff walk haunt Kennesaw State hurler Travis Dean as Alex Reynolds (Johnson City, Tenn.) worked a four-pitch pass, stole second and moved into third on a wild pitch. With Reynolds at third, Derek Niesman (Wellington, Fla.) drove in the fifth Blue and Gold run of the game on his sac-fly RBI to left, while Chris Riopedre – who singled earlier and sprinted to third on another single by Hershey – scored on Taylor’s squeeze bunt to give the Bucs a four-run advantage.
Kennesaw State cut its deficit to three runs in the fifth when the Owls registered another two-out RBI on Way’s single to center, but Freeman came through with an RBI double in the bottom of the inning to make it a 7-3 score.
Both teams scored a pair of unearned runs in the sixth, and Kennesaw State pulled within three in the seventh, 9-6. The Owls scored their seventh-inning run when Bruce’s single to right generated Kennesaw State’s sixth two-out RBI of the game, but despite plating its seventh run in the ninth, Freeman worked out of a bases loaded jam. With two outs and nowhere to put Belcher, Freeman struck out the Owl pinch hitter swinging on a 2-2 pitch to end the game and secure the two-run victory for the Blue and Gold.
All nine of Kennesaw State’s starters recorded a hit as the Owls tallied 15 hits in the game. Six different players finished with two-hit games, with Way going 2-for-5 with two runs scored and an RBI.
Dean suffered the loss for Kennesaw State as he was charged with six runs on five hits in four innings to see his record dip to 3-8 on the campaign.
GAME TWO RECAP
In a game where the Bucs never trailed, ETSU scored one run in the fourth and fifth innings, while using a four-run sixth to cruise its way to an 8-2 victory over the Owls.
Once again, it was the top of the order that generated the offensive attack, while Logan Rice was stellar on the mound.
Jeremy Taylor, Dylan Tritsch, Andrew Green, and Clinton Freeman went 10-for-18 with four doubles, four runs scored and seven RBI, while Chris Riopedre tied his career-high with a three-hit performance.
Rice improved to 4-0 with a 1.30 ERA (4 ER/27.2 IP) as a starter with the right-hander out of Erwin, Tenn. lasted a career-high seven innings, while issuing one run on six hits and striking out three.
As a team, the Blue and Gold offense put the leadoff hitter on in six of the eight innings, went 5-for-12 with two outs, and 8-for-16 with runners in scoring position.
After both teams were held scoreless in the first three innings of play, ETSU plated the first of its four two-out RBIs when Riopedre’s infield single brought home Derek Niesman to put the Bucs ahead, 1-0 in the fourth. Niesman reached on a fielder’s choice, while moving into scoring position by stealing second and advancing to third on a throwing error by Max Pentecost, which led to the clutch hit by the Buccaneer shortstop.
The two-out hitting carried over to the fifth inning when Green doubled to right-center and Freeman plated the second run on an RBI single to right, making it 2-0 in favor of ETSU.
Kennesaw State pulled within a run when Jacob Bruce’s two-out RBI single to short allowed Kal Simmons the opportunity to score, but the Blue and Gold pulled away by pushing across four runs in the sixth. Taylor started the big inning when his two-RBI double scored Trey York (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Riopedre, while Green also provided a two-run scoring double to extend the Bucs’ lead to, 6-1.
The Owls scored their final run in the eighth, while Green drove in his third run of the contest on a single up the middle and Freeman generated his 100th RBI of his career when his single brought in Green to make it an 8-2 game in the bottom half of the inning.
Left-hander Kevin Kyle got the starting nod for Kennesaw State, but the pitcher saw his record drop to 5-6 after receiving the loss. Kyle tossed 5.1 innings and allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits.
Chris McGowan led the Owls offensively by finishing 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI.
The Bucs now embark on another five-game road swing beginning Tuesday night when ETSU heads to Boone, N.C., to finish up its suspended game with Appalachian State. Following the conclusion of the suspended game, both teams will play a nine-inning game. Game time for the suspended game is set for 5 p.m. at Smith Stadium.
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