FT. MYERS, Fla. (May 22, 2014) – The ETSU baseball team didn’t want to see its season come to an end on Thursday.
The Bucs stepped up in a do-or-die situation as the Blue and Gold used stellar pitching and clutch hitting to knock out second-seeded Mercer, 7-1, in an elimination game of the Atlantic Sun Championship from FGCU’s Swanson Stadium.
Jamin McCann (Kingsport, Tenn.), Logan Rice (Erwin, Tenn.) and Jimmy Nesselt (Plantation, Fla.) each provided the Bucs with three strong innings on the mound, while ETSU’s offense plated four runs in the second and three more in the fourth to advance in the conference tournament.
McCann earned the win (5-4) after allowing one run on three hits and struck out three, while Rice retired all nine Mercer hitters he faced before turning things over to Nesselt for his first collegiate save. Nesselt scattered five hits and struck out three to close out the win.
All nine Buccaneers reached base in the game as five ETSU players registered multi-hit games. Jeremy Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.) and Chris Cook (Kingsport, Tenn.) paced the top of the lineup with four hits, two runs and an RBI, while Chris Riopedre (Miami, Fla.), Tyler Roach (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Jordan Sanford (Powell, Tenn.) also provided the Blue and Gold with two hits each. Roach drove in a pair of runs in the fourth, Sanford scored a run and delivered an RBI double in the second, and Riopedre plated a run with an infield chopper in the fourth. Sanford and Taylor both extended their respective streaks in the win. Sanford has reached base safely in 19 straight games and Taylor has hit safely in eight consecutive contests.
The Bucs, who have knocked out Mercer in back-to-back conference tournaments, improved to 27-29, while the Bears will now await their postseason fate after moving to 38-17. ETSU advances with the win and play Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. The Bucs face the loser of the Kennesaw State/Stetson game, which is scheduled to be played Thursday at 5 p.m.
The Blue and Gold did all their damage in the second and fourth innings as ETSU combined for seven runs on 10 hits in the two frames to grab all the momentum.
ETSU hit around in the second inning and picked up RBIs from Sanford, Cook, Kevin Phillips (St. Louis, Mo.), and Gage Downey (Franklin, Tenn.). Roach started the hit parade as he laced a one-out double to left-center and scored on Phillips’ single up the middle. Sanford registered ETSU’s third straight hit in the inning as his double to left brought home Phillips, and the Powell, Tenn. native sprinted home on Downey’s two-out single up the middle. Following a Mercer pitching change, Cook greeted freshman Ryan Askew with an RBI single to center, making it a 4-0 score.
The Bears plated their lone run on Chesny Young’s two-out double in the third, but McCann ended the inning by forcing Sasha LaGarde to fly out to right.
The Bucs jumped all over the Bears an inning later as the Blue and Gold pushed across three more runs to open a six-run lead, 7-1. ETSU did all its hurt with two outs as Riopedre’s infield single to second plated the first run of the frame and Roach capped off the Bucs’ scoring with a two-RBI single to right.
Rice took over on the mound in the fourth and retired all nine hitters he faced, and Nesselt held the Bears scoreless in the final three innings to keep ETSU’s hopes of defending its A-Sun Championship title alive.
Nesselt got a key 4-6-3 double play in the eighth and struck out Devin Bonin looking with a pair of Mercer runners on base to end the game.
Grant Papelian took the loss (5-4) after allowing four runs on five hits in 1.2 innings of work, while Young, Bonin and Danny Edgeworth all hit two-hit games in the loss.
The Bears, who entered the championship with a No. 31 RPI, hope to secure an NCAA Tournament at-large berth for a second straight year.
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