JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (March 8, 2014) – Junior right-hander Jimmy Nesselt (Plantation, Fla.) recorded his fourth straight quality start and freshman Zach Mize's (Gainesville, Ga.) solo homer in fifth proved to be the game-winning run, as the ETSU baseball team evened the series by defeating Hartford, 5-3, on a sunny Saturday afternoon at Thomas Stadium.
After watching Austin Hutchison (Jefferson County, Tenn.) and Sean Newcomb duke it out in an old-fashioned pitchers’ duel on Friday night, Nesselt was effective on the mound for the Blue and Gold as he improved to 2-1 on the campaign. The Plantation, Fla. native allowed two runs on six hits while striking out four in 6.2 innings of work. From there, the Buccaneer bullpen allowed just one unearned run in the final 2.1 innings, and senior lefty Clinton Freeman (Jonesborough, Tenn.) worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning to pick up his second save of the campaign.
Freeman was one of the ETSU hitters to produce at the top of the lineup as he went 2 for 3 with a walk, double, and two RBI, while Jeremy Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.) and Zach Thompson (Johnson City, Tenn.) combined to go 5 for 7 with two doubles, three runs scored and an RBI. Taylor finished with three hits (one double) and scored twice, while Thompson was 2 for 3 with a double, run scored and drove in a run. Meanwhile, as Freeman, Taylor, and Thompson were busy tearing it up at the top of the lineup, freshman Zach Mize (Gainesville, Ga.) and Chris Riopedre (Miami, Fla.) showed their strength as they both belted solo home runs. Mize’s homer in the fifth proved to be the game-winning run, while Riopedre added an insurance run as he cleared the leftfield wall in the seventh.
Following the win, ETSU inched back to .500 (7-7) on the season, while Hartford had its two-game win streak snapped and dropped to 2-6.
After being shutout in the opener, the Bucs struck early as ETSU plated a run in the first and two more in the third to jump out to a 3-0 lead.
For the sixth time this season, ETSU scored first as Freeman’s one-out RBI double off the wall in center scored Taylor – who led off the inning with an infield single and advanced to second on a throwing error by Hartford third baseman Brian Estevez.
In the third, the Bucs added to their advantage, courtesy of RBI hits by Thompson and Freeman. Taylor sparked the scoring spree as he reached on another infield single and moved to second on a throwing error by shortstop Trey Stover. The Buccaneer outfielder came home when Thompson roped a ground-rule double to left, and the Johnson City product hustled home on Freeman’s single to right, giving Nesselt some room to work with.
With Nesselt holding Hartford scoreless through five innings, Mize came through with his second homer of the season in the fifth. Mize led off the frame with a blast to left, and the round tripper ended up being the game-winning play as the Hawks plated two runs in the seventh and added a score in the eighth.
Hartford ended its scoring drought with a one-out home run by Chris DelDebbio in the seventh, while Aaron Wilson’s two-out ground-rule double to center made it a 4-2 contest. However, with the tying run at second, red-shirt senior Derek Bushey (Richmond, Va.) kept ETSU’s lead intact by forcing Brady Sheetz into an inning-ending fly out.
Riopedre got one of those runs back for the Blue and Gold in the bottom half of the inning when he connected on his second home run of the season – and after the Hawks scored an unearned run on a sac-fly RBI from DelDebbio in the eighth – Freeman worked a perfect ninth inning to close out the two-run victory for the Bucs.
Hartford starter Brian Hunter took the loss (0-3) as he issued four runs on eight hits in six innings of action, while DelDebbio drove in two of the three runs in the losing effort for the Hawks.
As a team, ETSU pounded out 10 hits, marking the fifth time this season the Bucs totaled 10-plus hits in a game.
The Blue and Gold look to take Sunday’s rubber match as first pitch is slated for 1:05 p.m. at Thomas Stadium.
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