FT. MYERS, Fla. (May 20, 2014) – The ETSU baseball team begins defense of its Atlantic Sun Championship when the sixth-seeded Buccaneers take on third-seeded Kennesaw State Wednesday morning. First pitch is set for 10 a.m. from Florida Gulf Coast’s Swanson Stadium.
LAST TIME OUT
ETSU (26-28, 13-13 A-Sun) finished the regular season winning two of three from Mercer last weekend at Thomas Stadium.
Junior right-hander Jimmy Nesselt (Plantation, Fla.) began the series with a complete game win as the Bucs took the opener, 7-2. The complete game was Nesselt’s first of his collegiate career as he held the Bears to two runs on seven hits and struck out seven, improving to 7-5 on the season. Meanwhile, freshman left-hander Jamin McCann (Kingsport, Tenn.) directed the Blue and Gold to a 7-6 win in game two as he registered a quality start – allowing three runs on six hits in six innings of work. Despite taking a 7-3 lead into the ninth inning, Mercer rallied for three runs, but senior right fielder Tyler Roach (Knoxville, Tenn.) gunned down the tying run at the plate for the final out to secure the one-run win for ETSU. The Bears salvaged a win by taking the finale on Senior Day, 8-1.
For the series, Clinton Freeman (Jonesborough, Tenn.) hit .727 (8-11) with one double, two home runs, six runs, two walks and two RBI, while Kevin Phillips (St. Louis, Mo.) went 4-for-9 (.444) with two walks, a home run, two runs and four RBI. Freshman Gage Downey (Franklin, Tenn.) belted his first collegiate home run as his three-run homer in game two gave the Bucs a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
ETSU’s starting pitchers went 2-1 with a 3.15 ERA (7 ER/20.0 IP), while striking out 18 and walking three. Logan Rice (Erwin, Tenn.) got the start in the finale, but suffered the loss despite allowing two runs on eight hits in five innings. The senior right-hander struck out a career-high six and walked none.
ABOUT KENNESAW STATE
Kennesaw State (33-21, 17-9) enters the tournament as the hottest team by winning 19 of its last 20, including its last 15 conference games.
The Owls are led by Preseason All-American selection Max Pentecost as he leads the A-Sun in hits (97) and RBI (54), ranks second in slugging percentage (.626) and doubles (21), third in batting average (.422), fourth in on-base percentage (.477), tied for fourth in runs scored (50), and tied for fifth in home runs (8). Sophomore outfielder Alex Liquori is tied for the lead in triples (5), ranks seventh in batting average (.361) and is tied for eighth in RBI (41), while senior outfielder Bo Way is tied for seventh in hits (70).
KSU sophomore right-hander starting pitcher Jordan Hillyer went 7-3 with a 3.07 ERA (28 ER/82.0 IP) in 13 starts. Hillyer ranks fourth in the conference in ERA, is tied for fourth in wins and with teammate Travis Bergen in strikeouts (65), ranks sixth in opposing batting average (.250), and eighth in innings. The Owls also feature one of the top closers in red-shirt junior Justin McCalvin. The right-hander leads the A-Sun in saves (12) and is tied for the lead in appearances (31) with teammate James Connell and ETSU’s Will Chesney (Knoxville, Tenn.).
As a team, KSU ranks second in the A-Sun in hitting (.297) and third in ERA (3.55), while leading the conference in runs scored (331) and its pitchers struck out a league-high 410 hitters. The Owls also rank second in hits (579) and RBI (292), along with their pitchers picking off an A-Sun best 16.
KSU went 19-11 at home, 13-10 on the road and won its lone neutral site game this season.
Kennesaw State leads the all-time series, 16-12, and swept the three-game series this season in Kennesaw.
Eleven of the 28 games in the series have been decided by one run –with the Owls going 6-5 in those games.
The teams met for the first time in the A-Sun Tournament last season as ETSU defeated Kennesaw State, 7-2, in the championship game.
In this season’s series, the Owls outscored the Blue and Gold, 27-19, while out-hitting the Bucs, .389-.297. KSU went 13-for-36 (.361) with two outs and outscored ETSU, 13-3, in two-out situations. The Bucs committed four errors in the series and six of the nine runs scored in the Owls’ 9-6 game two win were unearned. KSU then rallied with a 9-8 walk-off win to finish the sweep as Chris McGowan’s two-out, two-run home run lift the Owls their one-run victory.
Kevin Phillips went 4-for-7 (.571) with one double, one home run (inside the park), three runs and three RBI in two games, while Andrew Lasure (Stanford, Ky.), Chris Cook (Kingsport, Tenn.), and Jeremy Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.) all hit over .300 in the three games. Lasure hit .375 (3-8), Cook went 5-for-14 (.357) and Taylor hit .308 (4-13).
ABOUT ETSU’S POD
Joining ETSU and Kennesaw State in its pod are second-seeded Mercer (38-15, 18-9) and seventh-seeded Stetson (24-32, 13-14). The Bears and Hatters play at 1:15 p.m. on Wednesday. Stetson took two of three from Mercer two weeks ago in Macon.
The ETSU/Kennesaw State winner faces the Mercer/Stetson winner Thursday at 5 p.m., while the two losing teams square off in an elimination game Thursday at 10 a.m.
The Bucs won two of three against both Mercer and Stetson this season.
Stetson leads the all-time series over ETSU, 19-12, while the teams have met four times in postseason play (2-2). In addition, 14 of the 31 games have been decided by two runs or less – with each team going 7-7 in those games. ETSU is 5-2 in one-run games, while the Hatters are 5-2 in two-run affairs.
Since the Bucs joined the A-Sun in 2006, Mercer leads the all-time series 20-11, but ETSU has won three of the last four against the Bears. Eleven of the 31 games have been decided by two runs or less – with Mercer going 8-3 in those contests. The Bucs and Bears have met four times in postseason play, and Mercer has won three of the four meetings.
ETSU IN THE A-SUN CHAMPIONSHIP
The Bucs are making their sixth trip to the A-Sun Championship and ETSU is 9-7 all-time in the tournament.
This marks the second time the Blue and Gold are the sixth seed as ETSU went 1-1 in a single-elimination format in 2009.
The No. 6 seed has reached the championship game four times since 1995 and those teams are 3-1 in the title game. Belmont (2011), Jacksonville (2003) and UCF (1997) all won as the No. 6 seed, while Campbell lost to Stetson in 2000.
ETSU has reached the championship game twice and are 1-1. The Bucs won the championship last season, but fell to Stetson in 2006.
A team has repeated as tournament champions six times in A-Sun history, while Belmont was the last team in 2011-12. Ironically, Belmont repeated in its final year in the conference as the Bruins moved to the Ohio Valley Conference, while ETSU is moving to the Southern Conference in July.
A-SUN TOURNAMENT FORMAT
Eight teams make up the double-elimination tournament, which runs from May 21-25 at FGCU’s Swanson Stadium.
The winners of each pod will meet for the A-Sun Championship on Sunday, May 25, which will be broadcast on ESPN3. If one team is undefeated coming out of their pod, then that team will need to be beaten twice; however, if both teams are undefeated coming out of their pods, then it becomes a winner-take-all championship game on Sunday.
Click here for the full championship bracket or visit AtlanticSun.org/baseball/championship for further information.
Every game will be broadcast live for free on ASun.TV, while the championship game(s) on Sunday will be broadcast on ESPN3.
ETSU games can be heard on WXSM-AM 640 The Extreme Sports Monster as “Voice of the Bucs” Jay Sandos will handle the play-by-play duties. Fans outside the Tri-Cities region can access WXSM online at http://www.640wxsm.com/ or you can listen to the games via your mobile device(s) by downloading the iHeart Radio application.
Live stats for each game of the tournament will be provided through StatBroadcast by visiting AtlanticSun.org. Fans can access live stats on their computers, mobile devices or tablets.
Live updates will also be posted on Twitter by following @ETSUAthletics and @ETSU_Baseball.
Tickets to the 2014 Atlantic Sun Championship are now available. General admission day passes are available for $10 and tournament passes can be purchased for $35. Reserved seating day passes are available for $15 and tournament reserved seating passes are available for $55. For more information and additional deals, visit FGCUathletics.com/tickets, or call the FGCU ticket office at 239-590-7145.
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For more information on Buccaneer baseball, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the baseball page.