JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (March 6, 2015) – ETSU baseball head coach Tony Skole was looking for a hero, but unfortunately, West Virginia’s Kyle Davis stole the role as his lead-off home run in the top of the 10th inning lifted the Mountaineers to a 7-6 series-opening win over the Buccaneers on Friday night at Thomas Stadium.
Despite having a three-run lead after four innings of play, the ETSU baseball team couldn’t hang on as the Bucs squandered numerous scoring opportunities. The Bucs, who had the game-winning run on third in the bottom of the ninth and loaded the bases in the tenth, left 16 runners on base, while going 3 for 16 with runners in scoring position against the Big 12 opponent.
West Virginia outscored the Blue and Gold, 5-1, after the fourth inning and grabbed a one-run lead in the top of the ninth, but ETSU rallied back as freshman catcher Hagen Owenby (Knoxville, Tenn.) led off the bottom of the frame with a double and scored the tying run on Robby McCabe’s (New Port Richey, Fla.) RBI single up the middle. However, McCabe was left standing on third as Jeremy Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.) hit into an inning-ending ground out to second, and Davis took the first pitch he saw from Dillon Cate (Sevierville, Tenn.) over the wall in left to begin the 10th inning, resulting in the game-winning hit. ETSU threatened in the bottom of the frame as Chris Cook (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Kevin Phillips (St. Louis, Mo.) both reached via singles and Owenby was intentionally walked with one out to the load the bases. But West Virginia reliever Blake Smith zoned in and worked out of the jam as he forced Jordan Sanford (Powell, Tenn.) to pop out to shallow right, while McCabe hit into a game-ending fielder’s choice to third.
The Mountaineers entered the game hitting .232 as team, but West Virginia out-hit the Bucs, 16-12, as Davis and Brad Johnson both finished with three-hit games for the visitors from Morgantown. Overall, WVU’s top of the lineup went 7 for 16.
Cook and Phillips both led ETSU with three hits each and Trey York (Knoxville, Tenn.) extended his hit streak to 11 straight games after going 1 for 3 with a double, run scored and three walks. Cook drove in two runs, while Phillips belted his third home run of the year with a two-run shot in the third.
Senior right-hander Jimmy Nesselt (Plantation, Fla.) started the game for the Bucs, but didn’t factor in the decision as he left after allowing three runs on eight hits, while striking out five in five innings of work. Nesselt was taken out with a two-run lead, but ETSU’s bullpen couldn’t silence the Mountaineer offense as freshman Ryan Simpler (Lewes, Del.) was tagged for two runs in the sixth and Cate (0-1) suffered the loss after allowing the homer in the tenth. Fellow freshman right-hander Kain Hewitt (Gainesville, Ga.) did a solid job in long relief as he issued one run in three innings out of the pen.
Despite walking six ETSU hitters, West Virginia’s bullpen kept the Bucs off the board for the majority of the game as the Mountaineer relievers held the Blue and Gold to one run in the final 6.1 innings of work, thanks to four shutout innings by freshman right-hander Conner Dotson. Smith picked up the win (2-0) as he tossed the final 2.1 innings and surrendered the lone run in the ninth.
Following the setback, ETSU has now suffered back-to-back losses for the first time this season, while West Virginia – who played in its fourth straight one-run game – improved to 5-6.
Early on, the Bucs fell behind as Jackson Cramer belted a two-out, two-run home run over the wall in left-center to put West Virginia up, 2-0, in the first inning.
After working out of jams in the second and third innings, ETSU gave Nesselt a one-run lead as the Bucs plated three in the bottom of the third and led, 3-2. Taylor led off the frame with a triple to center and scored on Cook’s sacrifice fly, while Phillips put the Bucs ahead when his two-run home run hit off the scoreboard in left. York, who extended his hit streak with a double, trotted home on Phillips’ third round-tripper of the campaign.
ETSU kept it rolling an inning later as the Blue and Gold took advantage of some miscues by catcher Ray Guerrini and led 5-2 after scratching across a pair of runs. Daniel Tucker (Hendersonville, Tenn.) ignited the two-out spurt by reaching on an infield single and moved all the way to third on the first passed ball from Guerrini. From there, Tucker scored on another passed ball, while Taylor – who reached on a four-pitch walk and stole second – sprinted home on Cook’s RBI single up the middle.
Unfortunately, after having runners in scoring position the next six innings, the Bucs were only able to manufacture one run over that span.
The Mountaineers made ETSU pay for its lack of timely hitting as West Virginia got a run back in the top of the fifth as KC Huth scored on Justin Fox’s RBI single, while the visitors tied it up at five an inning later.
Both teams were held scoreless over the next two-plus innings, but West Virginia regained the lead when Taylor Munden scored on Johnson’s RBI single to left in the top of the ninth, but ETSU answered in the bottom of the inning to pull even at six.
However, the Bucs were again unable to find the clutch hit as they left the winning run on third and the Mountaineers posted their second home run of the game as Davis’ blast to left put West Virginia ahead for good, 7-6.
Game two of the series is slated for 2:05 p.m. on Saturday as junior right-hander Lee Haeberle (Hendersonville, Tenn.) gets the ball for ETSU and the Mountaineers counter with red-shirt junior southpaw Ross Vance.
ETSU fans wanting to receive Buccaneer news, score updates, in-game promotions and much more sent to their mobile device can do so by signing up for “Buc Updates.” Click here to sign up today!
For more information on Buccaneer baseball, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the baseball page.