JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (April 26, 2015) – Seniors Jordan Sanford (Powell, Tenn.) and Zach Thompson (Johnson City, Tenn.) combined for six RBI, while sophomores Connor Bartow (Jonesborough, Tenn.) and Chris Cook (Kingsport, Tenn.) registered 2.2 scoreless innings out of the pen as ETSU rallied for a 10-7 series-clinching win over Western Carolina on Sunday afternoon at Thomas Stadium.
The Buccaneers fell behind by five runs early, but Thompson’s bases clearing triple ignited a four-run sixth and Sanford’s three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh put the Blue and Gold ahead for good. Bartow earned his first collegiate win (1-0) as tossed 1.1 innings of three-hit ball – and after suffering the loss on Saturday – Cook bounced back to get his first save as a Buccaneer. The Kingsport, Tenn. native struck out all four hitters he faced to seal the conference victory.
After being held to six runs on eight hits in the first two games of the series, ETSU pounded out 11 in the rubber match, marking the 21st time this season the Bucs have recorded double-digit hits. All nine starters finished with a hit as Sanford, Thompson and Christian Bailey (Kingsport, Tenn.) accounted for five hits, four runs and seven RBI. Sanford, who belted his first home run since Feb. 14, went 1 for 2 with two walks, two runs and drove in a career-high three runs, while Thompson went 2 for 4 with a run and totaled three RBI for the third time in his career. Thompson ripped his third triple of the season and finished with three RBI for the first time since March 29, 2013 against North Florida. Bailey ended with two hits in four at-bats for his second multi-hit game of the week and tied the game at six when his RBI single in the sixth capped off the four-run inning.
Freshman right-hander Ryan Simpler (Lewes, Del.) made his first weekend start in a Buccaneer uniform and earned a no-decision, while junior southpaw Josh Jacques (Rollinsford, N.H.) allowed two runs on two hits in 3.1 innings of relief.
Following the series win, ETSU improved to 16-27, 5-10 in SoCon, while Western Carolina dipped to 18-22, 9-9.
The Catamounts scored runs in the first three innings to a build a five-run cushion for starter Korey Anderson, but the Bucs slowly chipped away at their deficit by plating two in the bottom of the third to make it a 5-2 score. The first three ETSU hitters ripped singles to start the inning as Bailey led off with a hit to right-center and moved to third on Aaron Maher’s (Brentwood, Tenn.) single to right. Bailey then came home on Jeremy Taylor’s (Fayetteville, Ga.) RBI single to right, while Maher touched the plate when Cook hit into a 5-4-3 double play.
Western Carolina tacked on a run in the top of the fifth on a sacrifice fly RBI by Reece Strong, but after Jacques worked his second 1-2-3 inning in the sixth, ETSU’s offense came alive in the bottom of the frame.
Trey York (Knoxville, Tenn.) got things rolling with a leadoff single and moved to third on a single by Hagen Owenby (Knoxville, Tenn.), while Sanford was walked for the second time of the afternoon to set things up for Thompson’s heroics. Thompson took a 1-0 pitch down the line in right for his three-run triple and scored on Bailey’s RBI single to left en route to tying the game at six.
The game didn’t stay tied for long as Bradley Strong took the first pitch he saw off Jacques over the wall in right-center for his fourth home run of the season in the seventh, putting the Catamounts back ahead, 7-6. Bartow then entered with one out in the inning and got a huge pick-me-up from his defense as he issued a two-out single to Kramer Ferrell, but after he stole second, he was gunned down at the plate when Reece Strong reached on an infield single. Strong hit a slow chopper to third, and with Bailey’s throw to first being slightly off the mark, Ferrell tried to score on the play but Kevin Phillips (St. Louis, Mo.) threw a strike to Owenby at the plate for the final out of the inning.
ETSU carried the momentum into the bottom half of the frame as Phillips led off with a double and Owenby walked, setting up the big swing by Sanford. Freshman Seth Cunningham (Bristol, Va.) entered as a pinch runner for Owenby and was able to trot home when Sanford cleared the wall in left for the eventual game-winning homer as the Bucs took their first lead of the afternoon, 9-7.
The Catamounts threatened in the eighth as they had runners on first and third with two outs, but Bartow handed the ball over to Cook and the right-hander got out of the jam by striking out Bradley Strong swinging on a 3-2 pitch.
Cook helped his cause in the bottom of the inning as he scored Robby McCabe (New Port Richey, Fla.) with an RBI bloop single to right-center, while he made quick work in the top of the ninth by striking out the side to secure the three-run victory.
Freshman right-hander Dylan Biumi was dealt the loss (1-1) after surrendering the home run to Sanford in the seventh, while Anderson allowed six runs on eight hits with seven strikeouts in 5.1 innings in the start.
Five Catamount hitters all totaled two hits in defeat as Western Carolina out-hit the Blue and Gold, 12-11.
ETSU wraps up its four-game homestand Wednesday night when the Bucs host Appalachian State at 6:05 p.m.
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