KENNESAW, Ga. (April 25, 2014) – Kennesaw State is one of the top hitting teams in the country and the Bucs got an up-close look at it Friday night.
Six of the Owls’ 15 hits went for extra bases and Kennesaw State extended its winning streak to nine as the Black and Gold took the series opener over ETSU, 9-6, at Stillwell Stadium.
Despite scoring a pair of runs in the top of the first, the Bucs had no solution to cool off the red-hot Owls as Kennesaw State scored seven unanswered runs until Zach Thompson (Johnson City, Tenn.) scored on an error in the top of the fifth.
The Owls, who entered the weekend ranked 16th nationally with 431 hits, had six players record multiple hits, while nine Kennesaw State players finished with at least one base knock.
Five of the first six hitters in Kennesaw State’s lineup all finished with two hits each, while Collin Bennett and Brennan Morgan belted two-run homers for the Owls.
In the end, Kennesaw State out-hit the Blue and Gold, 15-8, while Andrew Lasure (Stanford, Ky.) finished with a career-high three hits for the Bucs. Jeremy Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.) and Chris Cook (Kingsport, Tenn.) both extended their hit streaks, but Clinton Freeman (Jonesborough, Tenn.) and Chris Riopedre (Miami, Fla.) saw their streaks come to an end after combining to go 0-for-9. Taylor pushed his to 10 straight games with a leadoff single in the ninth and Cook has now hit safely in nine consecutive games following his double in the first.
The Bucs got things rolling early as the first three ETSU hitters reached base and jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. After falling behind early in the count, Taylor did an excellent job battling back to work a leadoff walk, and after stealing second, the Buccaneer outfielder moved to third on a double by Cook. From there, Taylor scored the first run of the game when Freeman reached on a fielding error by Dylan Ivey at second, and Cook came home after Riopedre hit into a 6-4-3 double play – giving Austin Hutchison (Jefferson County, Tenn.) some room to work with before taking the mound.
However, the two-run cushion evaporated quickly as the Owls struck for their seven unanswered runs and built a five-run lead after four innings of play.
Kennesaw State plated three runs on four hits in the bottom of the first and never relinquished its lead. The first three Owl hitters reached via two doubles and a single to pull even at two, while Alex Liquori’s one-out single to left brought in Max Pentecost, which put Kennesaw State ahead, 3-2, after one inning of play.
The Owls added to their lead by plating two runs in the third and fourth innings, which extended Kennesaw State’s advantage to, 7-2. The Owls took full use of an extra out in the third as Liquori reached on a two-out fielding error by Freeman at first and trotted home on Bennett’s home run to left. Kennesaw State got RBIs by Jacob Bruce (triple) and Pentecost (single) in the fourth, making it a 7-2 contest.
The Bucs finally stopped the bleeding momentarily as Thompson led off the fifth with a bloop double down the line in left and scored when Freeman reached on a two-out throwing error by Chris McGowan at first.
Kennesaw State belted its second home run of the night when Brennan Morgan’s two-run homer in the seventh made it a 9-3 score, but the Blue and Gold chipped away at their deficit by scoring three in the eighth to pull within three runs of the Owls. Trey York (Knoxville, Tenn.) drove in the first run of the inning when his double off the wall in left brought home Tyler Roach (Knoxville, Tenn.), and Lasure – who reached on an infield single – scored on a sac-fly by Thompson. York capped off the scoring when he stole third and sprinted home on a throwing error by Pentecost.
ETSU put the leadoff guy on in the ninth as Taylor reached on a single, but Cook hit into a 1-6-3 double play and Justin McCalvin struck out Freeman swinging to earn his ninth save of the season.
Sophomore right-hander Jordan Hillyer earned the win (5-3) as he allowed six runs (four earned) on seven hits in eight innings of work. Hillyer also struck out four and walked three.
Hutchison suffered his third straight losing decision as he dipped to 3-4 after being charged with seven runs (five earned) on 10 hits in four innings of work.
Game two of the series is set for Saturday at 2 p.m. The Bucs will send junior right-hander Jimmy Nesselt (Plantation, Fla.) to the bump, while Kennesaw State counters with sophomore left-hander Travis Bergen.
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