JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 25, 2014) – Jeremy Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.) and Clinton Freeman (Jonesborough, Tenn.) finished with three hits each and senior right-hander Logan Rice (Erwin, Tenn.) tossed three scoreless innings in relief, as the ETSU baseball team used a late-inning surge to rally past UNC Asheville, 11-6, on Tuesday evening at Thomas Stadium.
Fresh off its extra-inning win at Auburn on Sunday, the Bucs jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead after three innings of play, but the Bulldogs took advantage of an ETSU error in the fourth to plate five runs and built a two-run cushion. However, Rice’s strong pitching kept the Blue and Gold in the contest, and the Buccaneer offense rewarded the senior hurler by scoring four runs in the seventh and eighth innings to cap off the late-inning comeback.
Rice held the Bulldogs to three hits and struck out three to earn his first win of the year (1-0), while Derek Bushey (Richmond, Va.) and Will Chesney (Knoxville, Tenn.) also held UNC Asheville scoreless in their appearances out of the bullpen. Bushey tossed one inning of one-hit ball and Chesney recorded the final two outs to secure the victory.
Taylor reached base in all four of his plate appearances as the sophomore outfielder went 3-for-3 with one double, one triple, a walk, three RBI and four runs scored. Meanwhile, Freeman – who hit .875 in two games against UNC Asheville last season – went 3-for-4 with a double, home run, and three RBI. The Buccaneer duo had six of ETSU’s 10 hits on the day, while Freeman has now reached base safely in each of the first eight games to start the season and extended his hit streak to five straight games.
The Bucs have now won three-in-a-row and improved to 5-3 on the campaign, while UNC Asheville – who has now lost 16 of its last 18 to ETSU – dipped to 1-4.
Early on, the Blue and Gold jumped out to the 3-0 lead, as ETSU took advantage of some control issues by UNCA starter Spencer Orr. Taylor began his perfect day at the plate by leading off the inning with a walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Following the wild pitch, Freeman walked and both Buccaneer base runners advanced on another wild pitch, allowing Kevin Phillips (St. Louis, Mo.) to drive in Taylor with a sac-fly to left.
In the third, Taylor doubled and trotted home when Freeman connected on his first home run of the season as the Jonesborough, Tenn. native took a 3-1 pitch over the wall in right-center, extending ETSU’s lead to 3-0.
Unfortunately, the three-run lead didn’t hold for long when a one-out error by Taylor in right prolonged the fourth inning and UNCA struck for five runs. Josh Jacques (Rollinsford, N.H.), who got the start for the Bucs, was tagged with three unearned runs in the frame, while Kameron Miller (Crestview, Fla.) entered from the bullpen and issued two more runs, giving the Bulldogs a 5-3 lead. With one out, Eli Miller hit a fly to right which Taylor had bounce out of his glove, while ETSU would’ve been out of the inning when Jacques forced Justin Woods to fly out on the next at-bat. However, UNCA used the extra out to its advantage as the Bulldogs strung together back-to-back RBI doubles, which ended Jacques’ day on the mound. From there, Miller walked the first hitter he faced, while Kyle Towles’ RBI double tied it at three. Tommy Houmard ended UNCA’s scoring output when his triple to left-center scored a pair of runs, giving the Bulldogs a two-run advantage.
After being held scoreless for three consecutive innings, the Buccaneer offense finally broke through again as ETSU scored four runs in the seventh and repeated the feat in the eighth to regain an 11-5 lead.
In the seventh, Chris Riopedre (Miami, Fla.) led off the inning with a single to right-center and moved into scoring position on a sac-bunt by pinch hitter Jordan Sanford (Powell, Tenn.). From there, the Miami, Fla. native sprinted to third on a passed ball – and after Trey York (Knoxville, Tenn.) worked a six-pitch walk – Riopedre scored via a wild pitch. York eventually crossed the plate to pull the Bucs even at five on an RBI single by Taylor, while Taylor moved to second following a walk from Chris Cook (Kingsport, Tenn.). The wild inning continued as Freeman looked to have grounded into a 1-6-3 double play, but UNCA pitcher Joe Zayatz airmailed the throw to second, giving Taylor the opportunity to score. After Freeman and Cook moved up a base on the play, Cook managed to score the eventual game-winning run on a wild pitch, which put the Blue and Gold ahead, 7-5.
The Bucs added some insurance runs in the eighth, courtesy of a two-run scoring triple by Taylor, an RBI double from Freeman, and Taylor scored on a balk by Zack Wiseman.
UNCA loaded the bases with one out in the ninth, but Chesney brought a stop to any comeback by getting the two Bulldog hitters he faced out. The Bulldogs pushed an unearned run across the dish on Erik Connolly’s fielder’s choice RBI, but UNCA left a pair of runs stranded to end the game.
The Bulldogs used seven pitchers on the night and Zayatz was dealt the loss (0-2) as he was charged with three runs (two earned) on two hits in one inning of work. Towles and Hunter Bryant finished with multi-hit games for UNCA, while Houmard and Connolly both drove in two runs each in the losing effort.
The Bucs host 2013 NCAA Tournament participant Canisius in a three-game series starting Friday afternoon at 3:05 p.m.
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