CHARLESTON, S.C. (May 18, 2015) – Coming off a series win over Wofford to end the regular season this past weekend, the ETSU baseball team looks to carry that momentum into this week’s Southern Conference Championship, presented by Mountain Shore Properties.
The Bucs, who are the No. 9 seed, take on eighth-seeded and host The Citadel in a play-in game on Tuesday at 10 a.m., at Riley Park. The winner enters the double-elimination tournament and faces top-seeded Mercer on Wednesday evening at 5 p.m.
ABOUT THE BUCS
ETSU (21-34) took two of three from Wofford this past weekend at Thomas Stadium, marking the fifth time in the last six years the Bucs have won its final home series of the season.
The Bucs got five strong innings from senior-right hander Jimmy Nesselt (Plantation, Fla.) and freshman Hagen Owenby (Knoxville, Tenn.) belted a three-run home run in the bottom of the first inning en route to guiding ETSU to a 6-3 win over the Terriers in Friday’s series opener. Nesselt allowed one unearned run on four hits and struck out nine in five innings to earn the win. Despite rallying from a six-run deficit to pull even at nine in the bottom of the eighth of game one of Saturday’s doubleheader, the Bucs couldn’t cap off the comeback as Wofford’s Matt Ramsay hit a solo home run in the top of the ninth to carry the Terriers to a 10-9 victory. However, ETSU bounced back by getting two home runs from senior Zach Thompson (Johnson City, Tenn.), while Owenby went 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBI as the Blue and Gold secured a series-clinching 12-5 win in the rubber match.
As a team, six of ETSU’s starters are batting over .300 with junior Trey York (Knoxville, Tenn.) pacing the Blue and Gold with a .356 clip. York leads the SoCon in triples (6), ranks fourth in runs scored (54), is tied for fourth in hits (74) and total bases (128), ranks fifth in batting average, sixth in on-base percentage (.436), seventh in RBI (51), and eighth in slugging percentage (.615). Meanwhile, sophomore Chris Cook (Kingsport, Tenn.) – who is hitting .344 – is tied for second in the conference in runs scored (55), ranks third in hits (77), and is 10th in batting average, while junior Kevin Phillips (St. Louis, Mo.) ranks second in doubles (21), sixth in RBI (54), is tied for sixth in total bases (125) and tied for eighth in hits (72). Phillips is hitting .329 and leads the team with 10 home runs, while Aaron Maher (Brentwood, Tenn.), Jordan Sanford (Powell, Tenn.) and Owenby are also hitting above .300.
Junior Jeremy Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.) has reached base safely in his last 30 games and has seen his batting average rise 49 points over the last 19 games. Taylor is hitting .351 (26-74) with five doubles, one triple, 13 walks, 23 runs and seven RBI during this stretch.
As a team, ETSU’s offense has registered double-digit hits in nine of its 13 games, while the Bucs have recorded double-digit hits 29 times this season.
Following his 9-strikeout performance on Friday night, Nesselt moved his season total to 103, becoming the first Buccaneer hurler since 2001 to record over 100 strikeouts in a season, while he’s five punch outs away from breaking the single-season record. Former Buccaneer standout and pitching coach Reid Casey was the last ETSU hurler to record over 100 strikeouts as he set the single-season record of 107 in 2001. Nesselt’s 103 strikeouts are tied for second among SoCon pitchers, while he’s only one of 68 pitchers in SoCon history to register 100-plus strikeouts in a season.
Junior right-hander Lee Haeberle (Hendersonville, Tenn.) hasn’t allowed a run in his last three appearances for the Blue and Gold. Haeberle carries a streak of six scoreless innings into the conference tournament and has nine strikeouts to one walk during this stretch.
ABOUT THE CITADEL
Like the Bucs, The Citadel (25-28) is also coming off a series win as the Bulldogs won two of three at Furman. The Bulldogs opened the series with a 5-4, 10-inning win on Thursday, while blanking the Paladins, 1-0, on Saturday. The Citadel dropped game two by another one-run decision, 9-8.
Prior to sweeping the Blue and Gold May 8-10 in Charleston, the Bulldogs had lost their last four home games as The Citadel was swept by VMI and suffered a 9-8 setback to North Florida.
The Bulldogs are led by senior two-way player Connor Walsh as he leads the team in average (.347), hits (70), runs (45), doubles (15), triples (3) and RBI (57), while sophomore outfielder Austin Mapes (.309) and junior catcher Stephen Windham (.302) are also hitting over .300.
On the mound, junior left-hander James Reeves leads the SoCon in opposing batting average (.222), ranks second in ERA (3.44), is tied for second in strikeouts (103) and wins (7), and ranks seventh in innings (83.2). Reeves, who has received a pair of SoCon Pitcher of the Week honors, is the SoCon’s all-time active leader in wins (19), while he no-hit Mercer back on April 2.
Skylar Hunter, the Bulldogs’ closer, leads the SoCon lead in games finished (27) and is tied for second in saves (12). Hunter is also the all-time SoCon and Citadel career record holder for saves with 40.
In total, 12 of the Citadel’s last 21 games has been decided by one run, while the Bulldogs are 5-7 in those contests.
Nesselt will get the ball for the Bucs, while Reeves goes to the hill for The Citadel.
Nesselt is 5-6 with a 5.22 ERA (51 ER/88.0 IP) in 17 appearances (14 starts) this season, while Reeves is 7-3 with a 3.44 ERA (32 ER/83.2 IP) in 13 starts for the Bulldogs. Both hurlers have 103 strikeouts on the campaign.
Nesselt suffered the loss against the Bulldogs on May 9 in Charleston as the right-hander allowed seven runs (six earned) on nine hits, while striking out five and walking three in five innings. The Buccaneer senior also allowed three home runs. Reeves tossed seven scoreless innings of five-hit ball to earn the win in the series opener on May 8. The southpaw struck out 12 and walked two.
The Citadel leads the all-time series, 54-28, as the Bulldogs swept the season series two weeks ago in Charleston. ETSU knocked off The Citadel, 12-4, last season at Thomas Stadium.
The Bucs haven’t defeated The Citadel in Charleston since Feb. 10, 2007, when ETSU earned a 5-3, 13-inning win over the Bulldogs.
In this year’s three-game set, ETSU was outscored, 36-14, and outhit, 40-23. Of the 40 hits allowed by the Buccaneer pitching staff, 17 went for extra bases as the Bulldogs recorded six doubles, one triple and 10 home runs, compared to only seven extra base-hits (all doubles) by the Blue and Gold. Furthermore, ETSU was only 5-for-32 with runners in scoring position (.156), compared to The Citadel going 14-for-33 (.424). Both teams were 5-of-8 with a runner on third with less than two outs, but ETSU was outscored, 21-1, with two outs. In addition, the Bulldogs hit .415 (17-41) with two outs, while the Blue and Gold were 2-for-28 (.071).
Taylor hit .417 (5-12) with two doubles, two walks, five runs and an RBI in the three games.
ETSU and The Citadel have met 10 times in the SoCon Tournament with the Bulldogs winning all 10 meetings – outscoring the Buccaneers, 83-29, in those contests.
ETSU IN SOCON CHAMPIONSHIP
ETSU is playing in its first SoCon Championship since leaving the league in 2005 when the Bucs fell to The Citadel in their final game, 10-6, on May 26 in Charleston.
The Bucs are 14-33 in the SoCon Championship, while the Blue and Gold have lost their last seven games in the SoCon tournament. ETSU’s last win in the SoCon Championship was an 8-2 victory over Furman on May 17, 2001.
The Blue and Gold have yet to win a SoCon Championship since the tournament format began in 1984.
ETSU has won five of its last seven conference tournament games dating back to the last two seasons in the Atlantic Sun Conference. The Bucs swept their way through the 2013 tournament to claim the championship, while going 1-2 last year in Ft. Myers.
Tuesday’s game will be streamed live on the SoCon Digital Network, while “Voice of the Bucs” Jay Sandos will have the radio call on WXSM-AM 640 The Extreme Sports Monster starting with the Atmos Energy Dugout Show, which begins 30 minutes prior to first pitch.
Live stats will be available for the tournament via StatBroadcast by visiting SoConSports.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.
All-Tournament Pass: $30 (Purchase here)
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