JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (May 2, 2014) – Junior right-hander Jimmy Nesselt (Plantation, Fla.) tied a career high with eight strikeouts in seven innings and the Buccaneer offense scored six runs in the first three frames as ETSU took the opener over USC Upstate, 8-4, in front of 1,110 fans on Friday night at Thomas Stadium.
Nesselt, who registered his eighth quality start of the season, earned the win (6-4) after allowing two runs (one earned) on seven hits, while Chris Riopedre (Miami, Fla.) and Kevin Phillips (St. Louis, Mo.) paced the Buccaneer offense with three hits each.
Offensively, ETSU recorded double-digit hits for the ninth time in its last 10 games after finishing with 16 hits, while eight different players contributed to the total. Phillips’ three-hit game tied a career high and extended his hit streak to seven straight games, while Riopedre – who has registered consecutive three-hit outings – drove in a career-high four runs. Meanwhile, Jeremy Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.), Tyler Roach (Knoxville, Tenn.), Jordan Sanford (Powell, Tenn.) and Trey York (Knoxville, Tenn.) all totaled two-hit performances. Chris Cook (Kingsport, Tenn.) moved his hit streak to 13 straight games after ripping a double in the third and scoring one of the five runs in the inning. Following his multi-hit game, York has hit safely in nine consecutive games, while Taylor (10 straight games with a hit in A-Sun play) and Clinton Freeman (12 straight games with a hit at home) also kept their respective streaks alive.
ETSU has now won 12 of its last 15 home games and improved to 22-22, 9-9 in A-Sun play, while USC Upstate (14-31, 4-14 A-Sun) suffered its seventh straight setback.
The Bucs used their speed to generate the first run of the game to jump ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the first. Taylor led off with single to center and moved into scoring position by stealing second and third before scoring on Roach’s two-out single back to the mound.
From there, ETSU jumped all over USC Upstate starter Eric Birklund as the Blue and Gold scored five runs on seven hits in the third to extend their lead to, 6-0. Taylor led off with another single and moved to third on Cook’s double to right, while both runs came home on Riopedre’s single to left. Following the two-RBI hit, Roach scorched a double to the gap in right-center, but Riopedre tried to score from first and was gunned down at the plate for the second out of the frame. However, ETSU started a two-out hit parade as Phillips and Sanford both posted RBI singles, and York capped things off with an RBI triple to right-center, giving Nesselt a six-run cushion.
USC Upstate ended Nesselt’s shutout bid by plating a pair of runs in the fifth, but the junior right-hander bounced back by getting out of the inning with a strikeout, and held the Spartans scoreless in the sixth and seventh innings to silence any comeback.
The Bucs added runs in the seventh and eighth innings as Riopedre delivered both run-scoring hits. The junior shortstop drove in Freeman with a double in the seventh, while Cook scored on his RBI single in the eighth.
The Spartans scored a pair of runs off Austin Hutchison (Jefferson County, Tenn.) in ninth when Justin Allen’s single up the middle drove in two USC Upstate runners, but Will Chesney (Knoxville, Tenn.) slammed the door on the visitors by retiring the three hitters he faced out of the pen.
Birklund suffered his eighth straight losing decision (0-8) after being charged with six runs on nine hits in 2.2 innings of work, while Zach Krider totaled three of USC Upstate’s nine hits on the night.
The Bucs look to win the series on Saturday as first pitch is set for 2:05 p.m.
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