JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (April 11, 2014) – Andrew Lasure (Stanford, Ky.) started it and Chris Cook (Kingsport, Tenn.) finished it.
Despite having North Florida tie the game with a two-run home run in the eighth inning, the ETSU baseball team responded with a bang of its own. Lasure came through with a key leadoff pinch-hit double in the ninth and Cook sent the Buccaneer faithful home happy when his walk-off single hugged the left field line as the Blue and Gold took the series opener over the Ospreys, 6-5, Friday night at Thomas Stadium.
Cook’s game-winning single marked his lone hit of the night after reaching via a pair of walks earlier in the game and scored on Chris Riopedre’s (Miami, Fla.) single in the fifth. Clinton Freeman (Jonesborough, Tenn.), who received the win on mound, went 2 for 3 and put the Bucs ahead 5-3 with a solo home run in the seventh, while Dylan Tritsch (Boca Raton, Fla.) extended his streak of reaching base safely to 20 straight games – going 1 for 4 with a triple and scored a run.
ETSU starter Austin Hutchison (Jefferson County, Tenn.) put the Bucs in line for a Friday night win as he gave the Blue and Gold a quality start. Coming off a rough outing at Lipscomb, the Buccaneer freshman held the league’s top-hitting team to three runs on four hits in six innings of work. Hutchison also struck out five and walked two en route to earning a no-decision. Freeman worked a perfect ninth inning (one strikeout) and improved to 1-3 by picking up the victory.
Following the win, ETSU snapped a four-game conference losing skid and improved to 16-17, 5-5 in A-Sun play, while UNF dropped to 15-19, 6-7. The win also marked the Bucs’ third walk-off victory this season and it was the fifth win in their final at-bat on the campaign.
The Bucs jumped out to an early 1-0 lead when Jeremy Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.) led off the bottom of the first inning with a single through the right side and came around to score on a passed ball by Peyton Walsh.
After facing the minimum through the first two innings, Hutchison met some trouble in the third, but the freshman right-hander kept runners stranded on second and third to keep ETSU’s 1-0 lead intact. With one out and runners in scoring position, Hutchison struck out Kyle Brooks on three pitches and induced Corbin Olmestead into an inning-ending fly out to right-center.
Unfortunately, after holding UNF hitless for the first three innings, the Ospreys used clutch two-out hitting in the fourth to take their first lead of the night, 2-1. UNF picked up a two-out RBI double by Patrick Ervin and he scored on Ty Kelly’s RBI single.
ETSU quickly recaptured its lead when Tritsch and Tyler Roach (Knoxville, Tenn.) led off the bottom of the inning with back-to-back triples and jumped ahead, 3-2. After Tritsch scored on the triple by Roach, the Knoxville, Tenn. native came home on Trey York’s (Knoxville, Tenn.) sacrifice fly to right-center, giving the Blue and Gold a one-run advantage.
The Blue and Gold added to their lead in the fifth when Riopedre’s single to center scored Cook – who led off with a walk and moved to third on a single by Freeman. However, ETSU couldn’t do further damage as Tritsch hit into a fielder’s choice and was caught stealing for the second out of the frame. Freeman was left standing on third when David Trexler struck out Roach swinging on a 2-2 pitch to end the inning.
From there, UNF cut into its deficit in the sixth when Drew Weeks led off with a triple to right and scored on a sac-fly from Trent Higginbothem; however, the Bucs got the run back when Freeman connected on his eighth home run of the year, extending ETSU’s lead to 5-3 in the seventh.
The Ospreys struck again in the eighth and tied it at five as Olmstead reached on a one-out single and trotted home on a two-out, two-run home run by Higginbothem.
Fortunately, the Blue and Gold weren’t fazed by the Osprey rally as ETSU kept its composure to pick up a critical conference win. After Lasure registered his first double of the season, freshman Brandon Moss (Atlanta, Ga.) entered as a pinch runner – and despite Taylor not being able to execute a sac-bunt – Cook bailed his teammate out by ripping his first collegiate walk-off hit. Cook sent the first pitch he saw off UNF closer Dan Vansickle down the line in left and Moss scored with ease to cap off the hard-fought contest.
Vansickle was charged with the loss (2-3) after allowing the one run on two hits in two-thirds of an inning, while Trexler picked up a no-decision. The UNF right-hander surrendered five runs on seven hits, while striking out six and walking three in 7.2 innings of work.
Higginbothem went 1 for 2 with the two-run home run, while also scoring a pair of runs and drove in three. Weeks had two of the Ospreys’ six hits on the night.
The Bucs look to win the series Saturday afternoon as junior Jimmy Nesselt (Plantation, Fla.) goes to the mound for ETSU, while UNF counters with right-hander Evan Incinelli. Game time is set for 2:05 p.m. at Thomas Stadium.
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