JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Feb. 12, 2015) – After weeks of practice and scrimmages, the ETSU baseball team is set to open the 2015 season as the Bucs host Eastern Kentucky in a three-game non-conference series this weekend at Thomas Stadium.
GAME TIMES/PITCHING MATCHUPS
Friday – 3:05 p.m. – Game No. 1
RHP Jimmy Nesselt (7-5, 4.06) vs. RHP Logan Hershenow (2-2, 3.64)
Saturday – 1:05 p.m. – Game No. 2
RHP Lee Haeberle (6-3, 3.68) vs. LHP Alex Hamilton (0-0, 10.12)
Sunday – 1:05 p.m. – Game No. 3
RHP Griffin Krieg (0-0, 3.27) vs. LHP Luke McGee (3-5, 4.25)
2014 stats listed
PREVIEWING THE BUCS
Coming off a 27-30, 13-13 (A-Sun) campaign in 2014, the Buccaneers return to the Southern Conference in 2015 where the Blue and Gold were picked to finish fourth in the preseason poll.
Head coach Tony Skole enters his 16th season at ETSU and returns 16 players from last season’s team, while bringing in 19 newcomers.
The Bucs lost a pair of players to the 2014 MLB Draft in two-way player Clinton Freeman (18th round, Los Angeles Dodgers) and shortstop Chris Riopedre (23rd round, Washington Nationals). Freeman was one of eight seniors on last season’s roster, while Riopedre was a junior.
Senior Jordan Sanford (Powell, Tenn.), ETSU’s top returning hitter from a year ago (.367), replaces Riopedre – an All-Atlantic Sun selection – at short, while junior Kevin Phillips (St. Louis, Mo.) supplants Freeman – another all-conference pick – at first. Meanwhile, junior Trey York (Knoxville, Tenn.) – who made 53 starts at second in 2014 – returns for another season and sophomore Chris Cook (Kingsport, Tenn.) will again be at third after registering 47 starts at the corner as a freshman. Cook, a 2014 A-Sun all-freshman team selection, was also selected to the Preseason All-SoCon Team.
Despite featuring three upperclassmen in the outfield, only one carries starting experience in junior center fielder Jeremy Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.). Taylor – who has started 112 of the possible 117 games since stepping foot on campus in 2013 – recently received preseason honors by College Sports Madness. Joining the Fayetteville, Ga. native in the outfield are a pair of seniors in Zach Thompson (Johnson City, Tenn.) and red-shirt Daniel Tucker (Hendersonville, Tenn.). Thompson made 16 starts in the Buccaneer outfield a year ago (14 in left / two in right), while Tucker played in 16 games (two starts) during ETSU’s 2013 championship season. Tucker will begin the year in left and Thompson moves over to right.
Of the 19 newcomers, nine are pitchers, and many will be counted on as the Bucs lost eight hurlers from a year ago. Joining senior Jimmy Nesselt (Plantation, Fla.) with over 10.0 innings of Division I experience are juniors Griffin Krieg (Nashville, Tenn.) and Josh Jacques (Rollinsford, N.H.), along with sophomore Jamin McCann (Kingsport, Tenn.). Red-shirt freshman right-hander Dillon Cate (Sevierville, Tenn.) will replace Freeman – who accounted for 19 of ETSU’s 21 saves over the last two seasons – as the Buccaneer closer.
Nesselt, one of four seniors on the roster, will get the opening day start on the mound on Friday, while freshman two-sport athlete (football/baseball) Hagen Owenby (Knoxville, Tenn.) will make his collegiate debut behind the plate. Newcomer and JUCO standout Lee Haeberle (Hendersonville, Tenn.) goes to the hill for the Blue and Gold on Saturday, while Krieg is scheduled to get the ball in Sunday’s finale. Haeberle went 6-3 with a 3.68 ERA in 12 appearances (10 starts) last year at Dyersburg State. The right-hander was a two-time Team Pitcher of the Year at Dyersburg and was named Player of the Year for the Eagles in 2014.
Along with Nesselt, Krieg and Haeberle, McCann also carries starting pitching experience as 12 of his 18 appearances were starts as a freshman, leading to the left-hander receiving A-Sun All-Freshman Team honors.
PREVIEWING THE COLONELS
EKU went 24-31, 12-18 (OVC) in 2014 and is picked to finish ninth in the Ohio Valley Conference in 2015.
The Colonels return seven starters and 12 pitchers from last year's team. The key returners include junior outfielder Kyle Nowlin and senior pitcher Logan Hershenow.
Nowlin started all 55 games for the Colonels last season, and is the top returning hitter on the team. Nowlin raised his average from .295 to .307 last season, and finished with six home runs and 26 RBIs. Nowlin also finished sixth in the OVC in steals with 15.
Hershenow will look to lead the pitching staff. The St. Louis, Missouri native finished second in the OVC in appearances last season and posted with a 3.64 ERA.
EKU welcomes 13 newcomers to the team in 2015.
The Colonels lead the all-time series, 52-34-1, as both teams split the two meetings in 2014. The Bucs won in Johnson City, while EKU won in Richmond with both scores being, 4-3.
McCann earned the win after pitching five scoreless innings and striking out six EKU hitters last season, while York belted his first collegiate home run and went 2 for 3 in the win. Overall, York is hitting .571 (4-7) with one double, one home run and two runs in seven at-bats against EKU, while Cook is 2 for 3 with one double, one walk and one run in two career games versus the Colonels.
The two programs played the first-ever series in Thomas Stadium to open the 2012 season.
Live stats will be available for this weekend’s series via StatBroadcast by visiting ETSUBucs.com. 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.
Jeremy Taylor and Jordan Sanford carry a pair of streaks into the 2015 season. Taylor, a 2014 A-Sun All-Tournament Team selection, hit safely in his final nine games last year, while Sanford has reached base safely in 20 consecutive games. Sanford was also named to the A-Sun All-Tournament Team.
The Bucs have won their last two season-opening series as ETSU took two of three from Longwood (2014) and from Penn State in 2013. Overall, the Blue and Gold have won five of their last six series openers.
ETSU defeated Eastern Kentucky in the 2012 season-opener, marking the first game played at Thomas Stadium.
The Blue and Gold have won 41 games at Thomas Stadium over the last two seasons, resulting in a .651 winning percentage during this span.
ETSU will play 31 games at Thomas Stadium in 2015, which includes visits from West Virginia, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Miami (Ohio) and Butler. In total, the Blue and Gold play teams from 11 different conferences this season.
Jimmy Nesselt was named one of the “Top 100 Seniors” by Perfect Game.
Coach Skole enters the season seven wins shy of his 400th career win at ETSU and 12 wins shy of career win No. 500.
A LOOK AHEAD
The Bucs head to Spartanburg, S.C. next weekend for the Upstate Classic. ETSU opens play on Friday, Feb. 20 against tournament host USC Upstate at 4 p.m., while taking on UNC Asheville (Saturday, noon) and Pittsburgh (Sunday, noon).
Single-game tickets to ETSU baseball games are $10 for reserved seats behind home plate and $5 for reserved seats along the baselines.
Single-game tickets are $2 for groups of 10 or more people. Please call (423) 439-4828 for details.
Tickets can be purchased at the stadium, online at ETSUBucs.com, or by calling (423) 439-3878.
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