JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (March 21, 2007) - The ETSU softball team opened up conference play Wednesday afternoon with a split against Kennesaw State at Metro-Kiwanis Park. The Bucs took game one 2-0, but they could not make it a sweep as the Owls won game two, 6-2.
Senior Stephanie Gaynord (Manassas, Va.) totaled the only two hits for the Bucs in game one, but both knocks paid huge dividends for ETSU as she belting two solo home runs. Gaynord got things rolling quickly for the Bucs when she led off the bottom of the first with a blast over the left field fence, marking her first home run of the season. The senior shortstop was not done as she gave the Bucs a little more breathing room in the sixth, when she sneaked one down the left field line for her second home run of the game.
Both pitchers had solid outings in game one, but Gaynord made Kennesaw State's Brittany Matthews pay for her two mistakes she made all day. After battling through a few rough patches during the first three innings, sophomore Mary Catherine Vercoe (Signal Mountain, Tenn.) settled down nicely by retiring 12 of the final 13 Kennesaw State hitters. Vercoe (7-6) allowed two hits and punched out a career-high six batters en route to her fourth shutout of the season.
A three-run seventh by Kennesaw State in the second game hurt the Bucs' chance for an afternoon A-Sun sweep. The game was tightly contested during the first six innings, but the three runs in the final inning gave the Owls all they needed to pull one away from ETSU.
Kennesaw State pushed the first run across the plate when Keri McKee's single scored Klair Wells from the second, and the Owls looked like they were going to blow the game wide open in the first. However, freshman Darci Gilbert (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) forced the next batter to fly out to first, and then got Megan Gant to ground into a double play to end the threat.
The Bucs made sure the lead would not last long as Jessie Hackworth (Clinton, Tenn.) joined Gaynord in the home run parade, by connecting on a solo shot to dead center in the bottom of the inning. ETSU looked to have something brewing an inning later, when they had runners on second and third with only one out, but KSU's Missy Hoby ended any threat by getting the next two Bucs hitters out.
The Owls Jennifer Nolan just got enough of one in the fifth as the ball barely cleared the center field fence, snapping the 1-1 tie. Once again the Bucs responded in the bottom half on the inning as Stephanie Cope (Maryville, Tenn.) singled and then reached second on an error by the center fielder. The single made Kennesaw State go to the bullpen as they brought in Janet Kearns, and Gaynord then made Kearns pay two plays later when her double scored Cope to tie the game at two. However, the Owls finally got things working offensively during the final two innings as they combined for four runs on four hits and picked up their first conference win of the year.
With the split the Bucs move to 11-15, 1-1 in the A-Sun, while Kennesaw State goes to 27-11, 1-1.
ETSU wraps up its longest home stand of the season when they host Milligan this Saturday. First pitch is set for 2 p.m.