KENNESAW, Ga. (April 26, 2014) – For the first two months of the season, the ETSU baseball team was the top fielding club in the Atlantic Sun Conference; however, things have taken a turn for the worse over the past two weeks for the Bucs.
For the 11th time in 12 games, the Blue and Gold committed an error as two miscues resulted in six unearned runs and Kennesaw State rallied for a 9-5 series-clinching win over ETSU on Saturday afternoon at Stillwell Stadium.
A throwing error by Clinton Freeman (Jonesborough, Tenn.) led to the Owls scoring the first run of the game in the third inning, while a one-out fielding error by Trey York (Knoxville, Tenn.) in the fifth resulted in a five unearned runs coming in, as Kennesaw State erased a three-run deficit to secure its 10th straight win.
ETSU built its three-run lead by scoring four in the fourth and tacked on one more in the top of the fifth to go up, 5-2. Unfortunately, the Blue and Gold couldn’t minimize the damage from the error in the bottom of the frame and Kennesaw State capitalized in a painful way for the Bucs.
Chris Cook (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Kevin Phillips (St. Louis, Mo.) fueled the scoring plays in the fourth and fifth innings as they combined to go 4-for-8 with four RBI. Cook, who has now hit safely in 10 straight games, went 2-for-5 with two RBI, while Phillips finished 2-for-3 with one double, one walk, one run and two RBI. Sophomore Jeremy Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.) also extended his hit streak to 11 consecutive games, courtesy of a double in the fourth.
Jimmy Nesselt (Plantation, Fla.) saw his run of three straight winning decisions come to an end as he suffered the loss (5-4) despite allowing just one earned run (seven total) on nine hits in six innings of work.
The Bucs have now lost three straight games and dipped to 20-21, 8-8 in A-Sun play, and the surging Owls improved to 24-20, 10-9.
Both pitchers were dealing early, but Freeman’s throwing error in the third led to Kennesaw State taking a 1-0 lead. Despite Nesselt retiring nine of the first 11 Owl hitters he faced, Kennesaw State was able to strike first as Matt Bahnick led off the inning with a bloop single to left-center and later scored on the error. With one out and Bahnick on second, Nesselt induced Kal Simmons into a groundout to short, and after Bahnick broke to third, Freeman tried to make a play but his throw was wide of the bag, resulting in the Kennesaw runner to score.
The Bucs quickly answered back as the Blue and Gold scored four runs in the top of the fourth to grab a 4-1 lead. The first three ETSU hitters reached to start the big inning as Tyler Roach (Knoxville, Tenn.) led things off with a five-pitch walk and scored on Phillips’ double to left, while the Buccaneer designated hitter came home on Jordan Sanford’s (Powell, Tenn.) single to center. From there, Kennesaw State looked to have regrouped as Travis Bergen forced York to fly out to left and the Owl left-hander picked off Sanford as he tried to steal second. However, ETSU’s two-out clutch hitting came alive as Gage Downey (Franklin, Tenn.) singled and Taylor extended his hitting streak with a double down the left field line, which putter runners in scoring position for Cook. The Kingsport, Tenn. native delivered with a key two-run scoring single to left to put the Bucs ahead by three runs.
Kennesaw State led off the bottom half of the fourth inning with a solo home run by Max Pentecost, but with one out and a runner on first, Nesselt got out of the frame by forcing Brennan Morgan to hit into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play, keeping ETSU ahead, 4-2.
ETSU got the run back in the top of the fifth when Chris Riopedre (Miami, Fla.) led off with a single to right-center and scored on Phillips’ RBI single to left, but things drastically changed in the bottom of the inning as the Owls scored five unearned runs to regain a 7-5 lead. With one out and a runner on second, York’s fielding error at second allowed Bahnick to reach, while Simmons’ fly out to right would’ve ended in the inning. Instead, it scored the first run of the frame and allowed the flood gates to open as the Owls scored four more runs. Bo Way drove in a pair with single to left and Alex Liquori’s two-RBI triple to left-center capped off the scoring for Kennesaw State.
The Bucs were unable to recover from the gut-wrenching blow as the Owls bullpen held ETSU scoreless on one hit in the final 4.2 innings of the contest.
For insurance purposes, Kennesaw State added two runs in the seventh to build its four-run lead.
Nathan Harsh began the scoreless run for the Owls’ bullpen and earned the win (3-3) after allowing one hit in 2.1 innings. From there, James Connell (1.1 IP) and Justin McCalvin (1.0 IP) held the Blue and Gold hitless for the remainder of the afternoon.
Offensively, the Kennesaw State totaled 13 hits as Jacob Bruce and Bahnick combined for seven hits and four runs. Bruce went a 4-for-5 with two runs scored and Bahnick totaled three hits and scored twice. Pentecost finished with a pair of hits and scored three runs.
The Blue and Gold look to salvage a win in the series as the finale is set for 1 p.m. on Sunday.
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