SPARTANBURG, S.C. (Feb. 21, 2015) – Senior right-hander Jimmy Nesselt (Plantation, Fla.) recorded a career-high 10 strikeouts, but his performance was overshadowed as Joe Tietjen’s fielder’s choice RBI in the bottom of the eighth inning snapped a tie game and lifted UNC Asheville to a 3-2 win over the Buccaneers on Saturday evening at Harley Park in Spartanburg, S.C.
Overall, ETSU pitchers struck out 14 Bulldog batters – the most by the Bucs since registering 15 strikeouts against Wofford on April 15, 2005 – as freshman righty Ryan Simpler (Lewes, Del.) added four punch outs of his own. Simpler, who struck out the first six hitters he faced (three last week vs. Eastern Kentucky) to start his collegiate career, suffered the loss (0-1) despite not issuing a hit. The ETSU rookie was tagged with the unearned run in the eighth and walked two UNCA hitters. Nesselt earned a no-decision after allowing two unearned runs on four hits, while striking out 10 (zero walks) in six innings of work.
Despite striking out 14 and having the Bulldogs commit five errors, the Blue and Gold couldn’t get over the hump. ETSU had its chances, but the Bucs left 10 runners on base (five in the final three innings) and went 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position.
Kevin Phillips (St. Louis, Mo.) and Trey York (Knoxville, Tenn.) combined for four of ETSU’s five hits as they both finished with two-hit games, while Jeremy Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.) and Chris Cook (Kingsport, Tenn.) accounted for the RBIs. Taylor drove in the Bucs’ first run with a sacrifice fly RBI in the fifth and Cook brought home York with an RBI single later in the frame.
ETSU suffered its first loss of the campaign and dipped to 2-1 on the season, while UNCA, who knocked off Miami (Ohio) earlier on Saturday, improved to 2-3.
UNC Asheville jumped out to its 2-0 lead by scoring two runs on two hits in the second inning. With one out and a runner on first, Nesselt looked to have induced Kyle Carruthers into an inning-ending double play, but Jordan Sanford (Powell, Tenn.) committed a fielding error to place runners on first and second. From there, Riley Smith singled to right to load the bases and Tanner Bush drove in the first run of the game with a sacrifice fly to right, while Carruthers scored on a wild pitch.
The Bucs finally broke through by plating a pair of runs in the fifth to pull even at two. ETSU took advantage of some fielding miscues by the Bulldogs as Zach Thompson (Johnson City, Tenn.) reached on a throwing error by third baseman Derek Smith to lead off inning – and following an infield single by York – the Bucs loaded the bases when Daniel Tucker (Hendersonville, Tenn.) reached on another error after laying down a bunt. With no outs and the bases full of Buccaneers, Taylor came through with a sac-fly RBI to left and York scored the tying run on an RBI single by Cook.
Unfortunately, the Blue and Gold could never gain the lead despite having chances late and Nick Schavone held on to earn his first win of the year.
ETSU left a pair of runners stranded in the seventh and Phillips led off the eighth with a double, but Andrew Lasure (Stanford, Ky.) popped up to second, while Sanford and pinch hitter Seth Cunningham (Bristol, Va.) both struck out to end the threat.
UNCA made the Bucs pay for their lack of timely hitting in the bottom of the frame as Bush led off the eighth inning with a walk and moved to third on a pair of passed balls. Bush eventually scored when Tietjen hit a grounder to short and beat Sanford’s throw to the plate.
The Blue and Gold put one last scare into the Bulldogs in the ninth as York led off the inning with a single, moved to second on Tucker’s sac bunt and advanced to third when Cook reached on a two-out throwing error by Schavone. However, with the tying run standing 90 feet away, Hagen Owenby (Knoxville, Tenn.) tapped into a game-ending grounder to second.
Kyle Towles, Hunter Bryant and Smith made up the three Asheville hits. UNCA starter Lucas Clarke was charged with two unearned runs on three hits in 6.2 innings to pick up a no decision.
The Bucs wrap up play at the Upstate Classic on Sunday when ETSU takes on Pittsburgh (12 p.m.) and tournament host USC Upstate (4 p.m.) at Harley Park.
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