JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (March 29, 2015) – Kevin Phillips (St. Louis, Mo.) and Hagen Owenby (Knoxville, Tenn.) drove in the go-ahead runs in the bottom of the eighth and Dillon Cate (Sevierville, Tenn.) held UNCG scoreless for the final two innings as ETSU defeated the Spartans, 5-3, marking head coach Tony Skole’s 500th career victory on Sunday afternoon at Thomas Stadium.
Skole – who earned his 400th career win at ETSU earlier this month – was stuck on career win 499 for the last week and a half as the Buccaneer dropped seven straight games, but despite facing three one-run deficits on Sunday, the Blue and Gold finally took their first lead of the series with some late-inning heroics and held on for the two-run conference win.
Phillips’ one-out single to right in the bottom of the eighth snapped the tie game and Owenby followed with a fielder’s choice RBI ground out to short for the insurance run. Following a quality start by junior right-hander Griffin Krieg (Nashville, Tenn.), Cate entered and earned the win (3-2) by tossing two scoreless innings in relief. Krieg – who struck out four and walked none – allowed three runs on nine hits in a season-best seven innings, while Cate issued one hit and posted three strikeouts in his relief appearance.
Sophomore Chris Cook (Kingsport, Tenn.) extended his hit streak to 10 straight games when his two-out solo home run evened the score at one in the third, while he also walked and scored three of the five runs for the Buccaneers. Senior Jordan Sanford (Powell, Tenn.) scored ETSU’s second run of the game as he reached via an error to lead-off the fifth and Jeremy Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.) snapped a hitless streak by laying down a bunt hit to spark the eighth-inning surge and scored the eventual winning run on Phillips’ RBI hit.
In total, seven ETSU batters accounted for its seven hits while UNCG recorded 10, but the Spartans were haunted by a pair of errors from shortstop Tripp Shelton as both Buccaneer runners came around to score on the miscues.
Following the win, the Bucs improved to 12-14, 1-5 in SoCon play, while UNCG moved to 12-13, 4-2.
The Spartans took their first one-run lead by scoring the first run of the game on Ryne Sigmon’s one-out single in the top of the second, but ETSU quickly pulled even at one when Cook homered for the second straight day in the third.
UNCG used the long ball to regain a 2-1 lead as Eric Kalbleisch led off the fifth with a solo shot to right, but the Bucs responded in the bottom inning to tie things at two. Sanford hit one to short, but Shelton had the ball pop out of his glove as he tried to make the grab – and after the Buccaneer senior moved to third on Andrew Lasure’s (Stanford, Ky.) single – he came scored when Robby McCabe (New Port Richey, Fla.) hit into a double play.
The seesaw game continued an inning later as the Spartans went ahead by a run following a sacrifice fly RBI by Kalbfleisch, however, another error by Shelton in the bottom of the sixth led to ETSU plating its second unearned. Cook reached on a throwing error by Shelton to start the sixth and came around to score on Owenby’s two-out single to left en route to knotting the game at three.
Following the third tie of the afternoon and a scoreless seventh, the Bucs finally jumped ahead, 5-3, with their two-run eighth inning. Taylor led off with a bunt hit and advanced to second on a seven-pitch walk by Cook. From there, Taylor moved 90-feet away from scoring on Trey York’s (Knoxville, Tenn.) fly out to center and the junior outfielder sprinted home on Phillips’ RBI single to right. Cook scored the insurance run when Owenby hit into a fielder’s choice RBI to short.
Cate secured the win as he retired the first five Spartan hitters he faced – three via the strikeout – and after surrendering a two-out double, the Buccaneer closer forced Zac MacAneney into a game-ending pop out to first.
UNCG red-shirt senior left-hander Blair Betts took the loss (1-2) as he allowed one run on one hit in 1.1 innings of relief. Freshman righty Michael Bates earned a no-decision as he surrendered three runs (one earned) on five hits in a season-high 5.2 innings.
Sigmon and Aaron Wright finished with two-hit games in the losing effort, while Kalbfleisch drove in two of UNCG’s three runs.
The Bucs wrap up their four-game homestand Tuesday night when ETSU hosts Morehead State. First pitch set for 6:05 p.m. at Thomas Stadium.
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