FT. MYERS, Fla. (May 23, 2014) – A title defense was not in the cards for the ETSU baseball team.
Stetson broke a tie game by scoring two seventh-inning runs and tacked on an insurance run in the ninth as the Hatters defeated ETSU, 5-2, in an Atlantic Sun Championship elimination game on Friday afternoon at FGCU’s Swanson Stadium.
The Bucs registered 11 hits for the game, but couldn’t execute in key situations as ETSU went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and left eight runners stranded for the game.
Sophomore Jeremy Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.) generated the Buccaneer offense as he scored both of their runs and finished 3-for-5 with a double and a leadoff home run in the first, while Jordan Sanford (Powell, Tenn.) went 3-for-4. Sanford ended his junior season reaching base safely in 20 straight games, while Taylor ended the campaign with a nine-game hit streak.
Senior right-hander Logan Rice (Erwin, Tenn.) – who retired the first 18 hitters he faced in the conference tournament – took the loss (3-2) after being charged with the two seventh-inning runs (one earned) on three hits in four innings of work. Stetson starter Mitchell Jordan earned the win (3-8) as he allowed two runs on eight hits in 6.2 innings and Tyler Warmoth picked up his 10th save of the year by tossing two scoreless innings to close out the game.
ETSU, the 2013 A-Sun champions, ended the year at 27-30, while Stetson improved to 26-33 and moved on to face Kennesaw State on Saturday morning at 10 a.m.
The teams combined to score four runs in the first three innings, resulting in the 2-2 score.
Stetson plated its first two runs in the first and second innings as Mike Fernland – who led off the game with a single to center – scored the first run on an RBI groundout by all-conference selection Patrick Mazeika.
Taylor quickly tied the game at one when he led off the bottom of the first with a home run to right for his third round tripper of the year, but the Hatters used small ball to regain a 2-1 lead in the second. Kyle Zech led off the inning with a single and moved into scoring position by stealing second. From there, the Hatter outfielder advanced to third following a sac-bunt by Kyle Pitts and came home on a sac-fly RBI from K’Shawn Smith.
ETSU fought back an inning later to tie the game at two as Taylor led off with a double and scored on wild pitch from Jordan.
However, that would be the final run of the season for the Blue and Gold as Stetson’s pitching staff held ETSU scoreless for the final six innings and the Hatters took the lead for good with their seventh-inning spurt.
Stetson began the seventh with a leadoff single by Garrett Russini, which ended Rice’s run of retiring 18 straight hitters for the tournament. The Hatters eventually scored the game-winning run when Pitts singled and Russini charged home after Tyler Roach (Knoxville, Tenn.) had trouble fielding the ball in right field. Pitts later scored on a two-out RBI single by Fernland, giving the Hatters a two-run lead, 4-2.
ETSU’s pitchers retired 12 of 13 Stetson hitters from the third through six innings; however, the Bucs squandered scoring chances in the fourth and seventh innings.
In the fourth, the Blue and Gold had the go-ahead run on second with only one out, but Jordan worked out of the jam, while ETSU had the tying run on first with two outs in the seventh and couldn’t scratch across the runs.
The Hatters picked up their insurance run in the ninth when Russini led off with a double and trotted home on Pitts’ sac-fly to right, giving Stetson the three-run cushion.
As a team, Stetson recorded 10 hits, while Fernland, Russini, and Taylor Cockrell all finished with multi-hit games. Cockrell posted three singles, Fernland went 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI, and Russini finished 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored.
Senior right-hander Will Chesney (Knoxville, Tenn.) pitched the final two innings to make his 33rd appearance of the year, tying him for the second-most appearances in ETSU single-season history.
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