DeLAND Fla. (May 26, 2013) – The ETSU baseball team couldn’t have scripted it any better.
After tossing nine innings in the tournament opening win over Stetson on Wednesday, Atlantic Sun Pitcher of the Year Kerry Doane (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) returned to the mound in the all-important conference championship game on Sunday. Ironically, after seventh-seeded Kennesaw State defeated third seed North Florida in its pod championship game earlier in the day, the Owls sent their ace and undefeated hurler Stephen Janas to the hill.
In a matchup of unanimous first team all-conference selections, Doane proved why he was the best pitcher in the league as he tossed a complete game to lift the Blue and Gold to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1981 by defeating Kennesaw State, 7-2, in the A-Sun Championship game from Stetson’s Melching Field.
After winning the first three games of the tournament in their final at-bat, the Bucs didn’t need the late-inning heroics as the Blue and Gold led wire-to-wire to clinch their first-ever conference tournament title.
Doane recorded his NCAA leading and ETSU single-season best 12th complete game, while improving to 13-1 after allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits in the nine innings of work. Following the game, Doane was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Doane also tied the ETSU single-season wins record, becoming the first A-Sun pitcher to win 13 games since ETSU’s own Caleb Glafenhein (2004-07) accomplished the feat in 2007.
Joining Doane on the all-tournament team were seniors Derek Niesman (Wellington, Fla.) and Alex Reynolds (Johnson City, Tenn.), along with freshman outfielder Jeremy Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.).
The Bucs – who averaged over 11 hits per game in the four tournament contests – pounded out 14 hits on Sunday, with eight of the nine ETSU batters recording a hit in the championship. Niesman extended his hit streak to 16 straight games after going 3-for-4 and finished the tournament 8-for-16 with four runs scored. Meanwhile, Andrew Green (Powell, Tenn.) has now reached base in 23 straight games after going 2-for-5 with a run scored on Sunday. Overall, ETSU’s two, three, four hitters went 7-for-14 with three runs scored as Dylan Tritsch (Boca Raton, Fla.) finished 3-for-5 with a double and Clinton Freeman (Jonesborough, Tenn.) registered a pair of hits and an RBI. In addition, Reynolds hit .353 (6-17) with six RBI and Taylor was 6-for-19 (.316) with two runs scored and three RBI for the tournament.
As a team, ETSU swept its way through the field, as the Bucs hit .320 (47-147) and outscored the four teams, 22-12, en route to claiming their first-ever tournament title. On the hill, the Buccaneer pitchers posted a 2.54 ERA (11 ER/39.0 IP) with 27 strikeouts and nine walks, while holding the opposition to a .238 batting average.
ETSU has now won a season-high seven straight games and improved to 36-22, which is tied for third all-time for most victories in program history. Kennesaw State won four games in the tournament, but saw its season come to an end with a record of 30-30.
Both teams committed two errors each, but the Bucs capitalized on both Owl miscues to jump out to their 2-0 lead through four innings of play.
In the second, a throwing error by Janas led to the first run of the game coming across the plate, putting ETSU on top, 1-0. Freeman led off the inning with a single and moved to third when Niesman executed the hit-and-run with ease by hitting a chopper over the head of Chris McGowan at first to put runners on the corners. From there, Freeman came home when Reynolds laid down the squeeze, and despite having Freeman dead in the water, the Buccaneer first baseman scored when Janas’ throw to the plate bounced in the dirt, giving the Blue and Gold an early one-run advantage. Janas bounced back after the error as he left a pair of ETSU runners stranded at second and third as Chris Riopedre (Miami, Fla.) failed on his squeeze bunt and Mason Hershey (Altoona, Pa.) struck out looking.
Kennesaw State was haunted by more fielding miscues an inning later, as another Buccaneer unearned run crossed the dish to make it a 2-0 score in the third. Tritsch reached on a double and later scored when Freeman hit a two-out grounder to short; however, Kal Simmons’ throw was in the dirt and got away from McGowan allowing Tritsch to come home.
The Owls put a run on the board in the fifth when a throwing error by Doane led to Simmons scoring on the play, making it a 2-1 score. Simmons led off the frame with a single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Ryan Raper. The Owl freshman later scored when Alex Liquori hit a chopper back to the mound, but Doane rushed the throw and airmailed the toss over to Freeman at first.
Fortunately, the Buccaneer right-hander regrouped and was picked up by his offense as ETSU got the run back in the bottom of the inning, while plating two runs in the sixth and seventh to extend its advantage to, 7-2.
In the fifth, Freeman’s two-out infield single brought in Taylor from third after the ball hit off Janas’ glove, while the freshman right fielder drove in Reynolds and Riopedre with a single in the sixth. The Bucs capped off their scoring in the seventh as Kevin Phillips’ (St. Louis, Mo.) RBI single scored Green from second, and the ETSU designated hitter later trotted home on Reynolds’ sac-fly to center.
The Owls scratched across their final run on Andy Almonte’s RBI grounder to first in the seventh.
Janas (9-1) suffered his lone setback of the year after allowing five runs (three earned) on eight hits in 5.1 innings of work. Kennesaw State was held to four hits as Simmons recorded two of them.
The Bucs now return home to Johnson City, and ETSU will hold a NCAA Selection Show party at Poor Richard’s Campus Monday. The show begins at noon and will be televised on ESPNU. The viewing party is open to the public. The NCAA Regionals begin Friday, May 31.
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