JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (March 15, 2014) – Following Friday night’s setback to Bryant in the series opener, the ETSU baseball team was in great need for something positive to build on.
The Bucs may have found that spark on Saturday.
After falling behind 4-0 midway through the game, the Blue and Gold scored five unanswered runs and rallied for a 5-4 extra-inning win on Jordan Sanford’s (Powell, Tenn.) walk-off bunt hit in the bottom of the 12th inside Thomas Stadium.
Sanford, who was called upon to pinch hit with runners on the corners and only one out in the 12th, found a 2-1 pitch and laid down a bunt between the mound and first, allowing pinch runner Brandon Moss (Atlanta, Ga.) the opportunity to score the game-winning run.
Following a four-run sixth inning to tie up the game, the Buccaneer bullpen was dominate as sophomore southpaw Josh Jacques (Rollinsford, N.H.) tossed 1.1 innings of scoreless ball before head coach Tony Skole turned the ball over to senior right-hander Logan Rice (Erwin, Tenn.) for the remainder of the game. Rice had ice water in his veins as he worked out of jams in the ninth, 10th, and 12th innings before Sanford propelled the Blue and Gold to victory with his walk-off heroics in the 12th. The Erwin, Tenn. native earned the win (2-0) after pitching five scoreless innings and holding the Bulldogs to three hits. Rice also struck out four and walked two. Jimmy Nesselt (Plantation, Fla.) received a no-decision after issuing four runs on eight hits in five innings of work, which snapped a streak of four straight quality starts for the junior right-hander.
Bryant starter Kevin McAvoy took a no-hit bid into the fifth inning but picked up a no-decision after being charged with four runs on five hits, while striking out seven in 7.1 innings. Sophomore right-hander James Davitt was dealt the loss (0-1) as he allowed the one unearned run on three hits in 3.2 innings of relief. Davitt also recorded four strikeouts and didn’t allow a walk.
Timely hitting was the key for the Bucs as the Blue and Gold were outhit 13-8 in the contest, but ETSU was 4 of 6 with runners in scoring position, compared to Bryant’s 2 for 16 mark.
Sophomores Jeremy Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.) and Andrew Lasure (Stanford, Ky.) both finished with two hits, while junior Chris Riopedre (Miami, Fla.) drove in two of the four sixth-inning runs with a clutch one-out double. Lasure also had an RBI as his sixth-inning single brought in Riopedre to pull the Bucs even at four.
With the win, ETSU – who has now won its last 10 extra-inning games – snapped a three-game skid and moved to 8-10, while Bryant saw its three-game win streak come to a halt and dropped to 6-7.
Prior the sixth inning, things looked grim for the Blue and Gold, as the Bulldogs plated one run in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings to jump out to the 4-0 lead.
Despite only having one hit on the board entering the bottom half of the sixth, ETSU finally cracked the code on McAvoy and pushed across four runs on four hits to tie things at four. Taylor began the rally with a one-out single to left-center and quickly moved to second when Dylan Tritsch (Boca Raton, Fla.) was hit by a pitch. From there, Clinton Freeman (Jonesborough, Tenn.) plated ETSU’s first run of the afternoon when his single to left scored Taylor, while Riopedre brought home both Tritsch and Freeman as he doubled to the gap in right-center, making it a 4-3 contest. The scoring spree continued when Lasure – who broke up McAvoy’s no-hit bid with a single in the fifth – tied it up when his two-out single to left scored Riopedre from third.
Bryant threatened in the seventh when they had runners on first and second with two outs, but Jacques forced Dan Cellucci to ground into an inning-ending fielder’s choice.
Following the big sixth inning, the Bryant pitching staff got back in a zone as they retired 12 straight Buccaneer batters until Taylor reached on a two-out bunt single in the 10th.
The Bulldogs missed out on a scoring chance in the ninth, when Bryant had the go-ahead run at second with only one out, but Rice worked his magic to get out of the frame unscathed. The senior hurler induced Daniel St. George into an infield fly, while getting Cellucci to foul out to Freeman at first.
From there, Bryant put the leadoff guy on in the 10th, but the Bucs caught a break as Cole Fabio was called out when trying to lay down a sacrifice bunt. The umpire said Fabio was inside the baseline when Rice’s throw to the first base bag hit the Bulldog second baseman, resulting in Tom Gavitt having to go back to first on the play. Gavitt eventually advanced to second when John Mullen reached via a two-out walk, but Rice escaped without allowing a run by striking out pinch hitter Buck McCarthy.
After both teams were sent down in order in the 11th, the marathon carried over to the 12th, where Bryant was given another chance to take the lead. However, like he did all game, Rice buckled down as the Bulldogs had a runner on second with only one out. Rice made the second out by getting Fabio to tap one back to the mound, while Carl Anderson – who tried to sell a hit by pitch call on a 2-2 count – was called out on strikes when the home plate umpire said the Bryant centerfielder leaned over the plate on the play.
With momentum shifting back to the ETSU dugout, the Bucs capitalized in the bottom half of the 12th to capture the win. Lasure led off the inning by reaching on an error by Davitt as he couldn’t handle the throw from first baseman Robb Rinn, which gave Moss the chance to enter as the pinch runner. After Zach Mize (Gainesville, Ga.) failed to get a sac-bunt down, senior Tyler Roach (Knoxville, Tenn.) moved Moss to third on his single to right-center, resulting in Sanford’s walk-off hit on the next at-bat to lift the Blue and Gold to the one-run victory.
Rinn, Cellucci, and Gavitt all had three hit games in the losing effort for Bryant, while Gavitt finished with two triples, an RBI and run scored.
The rubber match of the series is set for Sunday at 12:05 p.m. at Thomas Stadium. Freshman left-hander Jamin McCann (Kingsport, Tenn.) gets the starting nod for the Bucs, while Bryant answers with sophomore right-hander Kyle Wilcox.
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