JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (March 22, 2014) – Typically a must-win situation doesn’t occur in the first weekend of conference play, but ETSU head baseball coach Tony Skole knew his team needed to come away with a series win this weekend against Stetson.
After dropping the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, 5-3, the Bucs were put in a pressure cooker. The Blue and Gold responded in a big way as Dylan Tritsch (Boca Raton, Fla.) drove in the go-ahead runs in the seventh and Clinton Freeman (Jonesborough, Tenn.) recorded his second six-out save this week as ETSU rallied to a series-clinching, 4-3, win in the nightcap at Thomas Stadium.
Despite trailing 3-0 after four innings of play, the Bucs’ offense came to life by plating two runs in the fifth and two more in the seventh off Tritsch’s clutch two-run scoring single. ETSU’s bullpen held its own as they held the Hatters to one hit in the final four innings to help secure the victory. Senior Logan Rice (Erwin, Tenn.) earned the win after allowing one hit and striking out two in two innings of work, while Freeman registered his fourth save of the campaign after retiring six of the final seven hitters of the contest.
Chris Riopedre (Miami, Fla.) and Freeman both drove in runs in the fifth, while Kevin Phillips (St. Louis, Mo.) – who was 5 for 8 with one double, one home run and four RBI in the series – went 2 for 3 with a walk and scored on Tritsch’s seventh-inning single. Riopedre and Freeman were also solid at the plate this weekend as they both hit .417 (5-12) and combined for four doubles, three RBI and five runs scored.
In game one, the Bucs jumped out to a 1-0 lead and junior right-hander Jimmy Nesselt (Plantation, Fla.) kept the Hatters scoreless for the first five innings. However, after ETSU hit into an 8-6-3 triple play in the fourth and an inning-ending double play in the fifth, momentum shifted as Stetson scored four runs in the sixth en route to forcing the rubber match with a 5-3 victory.
Following the series win, the Bucs moved to 11-12, 2-1 in A-Sun play, while the Hatters dipped to 8-16, 1-2.
GAME ONE RECAP
Stetson used stellar defensive plays and the long ball to even the series as the Hatters defeated ETSU, 5-3, in the first game of the doubleheader on Saturday.
The Hatters turned a triple play and belted two more home runs to rally for a two-run victory.
Kevin Phillips drove in two of the three runs for the Bucs and gave ETSU a 1-0 lead with a two-out RBI single in the second, but after holding Stetson scoreless for the first five innings, Jimmy Nesselt was tagged for four runs in the sixth. The Bucs never recovered from the three-run deficit as Josh Powers earned the win and Tyler Warmoth picked up the save. Powers allowed three runs on eight hits, while Warmoth struck out one to work a perfect ninth inning.
Phillips went 2 for 3 with a home run, while Chris Riopedre tied a career high with three hits and scored a run. Nesselt saw his record dip to 2-2 after allowing five runs on nine hits and striking out a career-high eight batters in 7.2 innings of work. Sophomore Josh Jacques (Rollinsford, N.H.) and red-shirt senior Derek Bushey (Richmond, Va.) both made scoreless appearances out of the pen. Jacques retired the lone hitter he faced in the eighth and Bushey allowed one hit in the ninth.
ETSU jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second when Phillips’ two-out RBI single to left-center scored Tyler Roach (Knoxville, Tenn.).
With Nesselt holding the Hatters scoreless, the Bucs threatened in the fourth – but with two on and no outs – Stetson centerfielder Kevin Fagan made a diving catch in center and turned an 8-6-3 triple play, keeping it a 1-0 game.
For the second straight inning, the Blue and Gold wasted another scoring opportunity, as Dylan Tritsch lined into an inning-ending double play to stop the threat in the fifth. The first two ETSU hitters reached to start the inning as Phillips walked and Trey York (Knoxville, Tenn.) used smart base running to reach on a bunt single. York looked to have recorded a sac-bunt, but after first baseman Kevin Mazeika never put a tag on York as he back-peddled on the play, the Buccaneer second baseman sprinted by the Stetson infielder to reach first. Unfortunately, after Matt Sorrow (Griffin, Ga.) moved the runners into scoring position, Trtisch lined into the unassisted double play to third.
After making web gems in the field, the Hatters finally struck for four runs in the sixth and took a 4-1 lead. Stetson got an RBI single by Fagan, while Garrett Russini’s two-out, three-run home run to left-center gave the Hatters a three-run advantage.
Phillips continued swinging his hot bat in the seventh when the Buccaneer designated hitter belted a two-out solo home run, pulling ETSU within two runs, but the Hatters answered when Tyler Bocock led off the eighth inning with a solo homer, making it a 5-2 contest.
In the bottom of the ninth, Riopedre registered his third hit by doubling down the line in left and later scored on an RBI groundout by Roach.
As a team, Stetson outhit the Bucs, 10-8, as Mazeika, Russini, and Mitch Piatnik all finished with two hits each. Russini drove in three of the five runs as he recorded his first home run of the season.
GAME TWO RECAP
Despite digging itself in an early hole, the Bucs battled back and scored four unanswered runs to rally past the Hatters for the series win, 4-3.
Dylan Tritsch capped off the key come-from-behind victory with a two-run scoring single in the seventh and Clinton Freeman was perfect out of the pen as he converted on his 11th straight save opportunity – a streak that dates back to last season.
Tritsch reached base twice (single and walk), while Freeman and Kevin Phillips combined for four of the eight ETSU hits. The Buccaneer duo both tallied two hits each and scored the runs in the seventh inning.
After Jamin McCann (Kingsport, Tenn.) went five innings in the start, Logan Rice and Freeman held the Hatters scoreless for the final four frames. McCann earned a no-decision after issuing three runs (two earned) on five hits. Rice picked up the win (3-0) and Freeman notched his fourth save of the season.
The Hatters struck early as they took full use of an extra out in the top of the first to take a 1-0 lead. With one out, Kyle Pitts reached on a fielding error by Chris Riopedre at short and he later scored on Josh Powers’ two-out RBI single to right.
Stetson added to its lead by posting two-out RBIs in the third and fourth innings to make it a 3-0 score. Powers drove in his second run of the game with a single in the third, while Tyler Bocock’s bunt single in the fourth gave the Hatters a three-run cushion.
However, ETSU’s pitching rose to the challenge and held Stetson scoreless for the final five innings and the Buccaneer offense came alive to rally back for the conference victory.
The Bucs struck for two runs in the fifth to pull within a run of the Hatters, but ETSU missed a chance to take the lead as the Blue and Gold left the bases loaded when Mitchell Jordan struck out Jordan Sanford (Powell, Tenn.) swinging to end the inning. Riopedre drove in the first run when his single to center scored Chris Cook from first and the ETSU shortstop came home on Freeman’s RBI single to center, making it a 3-2 ballgame.
After trailing for six-plus innings, the Bucs finally took their first lead on Tritsch’s two-run scoring single to right field in the seventh, which put ETSU ahead, 4-3. Things turned when Freeman reached on a one-out fielding error by Powers at first, and after Phillips singled and Roach walked, Tritsch came through with the go-ahead hit.
From there, Freeman moved from first to the mound and retired six of the final seven Stetson hitters he faced to close out the game.
Jordan took the loss (0-3) as the freshman right-hander was charged with two runs (one earned) on two hits in 3.2 innings out of the pen. Stetson starter Taylor Cockrell allowed two runs on six hits in 4.1 innings and earned a no-decision.
Bocock and Powers combined for five of the six hits for the Hatters. Bocock was 3 for 4 with a double, run scored and RBI, while Powers went 2 for 4 with two RBI.
The Bucs wrap up their four-game homestand when ETSU faces Western Carolina Tuesday night at 7:05 p.m. at Thomas Stadium.
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