Six-run third inning sparks dominating ETSU victory; Baird closes in on single-season home run record
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (March 2, 2014) - Clouds loomed over Betty Basler Field during the first few innings of ETSU's rubber game with Morehead State Sunday afternoon, but as the sun began to shine, so, too, did the Buccaneer offense, exploding for a season-high 10 runs in the final four innings to seal a 10-2, series-clinching win over the Eagles.
A two-run, game-winning homer by Lizzy Margagliotti lifted Morehead State over ETSU in game two of Saturday's double-header, and it appeared that Margagliotti would haunt the Bucs again Sunday in the final game of the Buccaneer Invitational presented by Holiday Inn.
Just nine pitches into her seventh start of the season, ETSU freshman pitcher Taylor Carter (Brazil, Ind.) watched as Margagliotti belted a home run over the left field fence to give the Eagles (3-12) an early 1-0 lead. Following a double by Dana Hutchins and an RBI single by Katie Raile, the Bucs entered the bottom of the first inning trailing, 2-0.
However, Carter kept her composure, and shrugged off the sub-par start. The freshman pitcher would go on to retire 14 of the next 18 batters she faced, allowing just two more hits en route to clinching her fourth consecutive complete game.
With Carter keyed in on the mound, the ETSU offense came to life in the third inning as the Bucs' (9-6) first five batters reached base safely.
Tennessee natives Latosha Rectenwald (Whitesburg, Tenn.) and Brooke Baxter (Jasper, Tenn.) led off the inning with back-to-back doubles, with Baxter driving in Rectenwald to cut the Bucs' deficit to 2-1.
Junior Nicole Fox (Peachtree City, Ga.) continued the Bucs' hot start, reaching base on a bunt single down the third-base line, and extending her hit streak to a team-high five games, before swiping second, one of her two steals on the day.
Bethany Cowart (Ringgold, Ga.) then drew her seventh walk of the season to load the bases, bringing freshman Kelsey Chernak (Ooltewah, Tenn.) to the plate.
The Ooltewah, Tenn., native singled on a hard hit ball through the left side to drive in two runs and advance Cowart to second, giving the Bucs a 3-2 lead. Chernak finished the day going 2-for-3 with a season-high four RBI, raising her batting average to .366.
With one out and runners on first and second, senior catcher Jackie Baird (Ooltewah, Tenn.) blasted a three-run home run to center field, her ninth homer of the season, to extend ETSU's lead to 6-2. After only 15 games, Baird stands just two long balls shy of matching Stephanie Gaynord's single-season program record of 11 home runs.
ETSU continued to pile on runs thanks to an RBI-single from Katie Wolff (LaGrange, Texas) in the fifth inning and a three-run sixth inning that included an RBI sacrifice fly by Cowart and a two-RBI, game-ending double by Chernak.
Outhitting the Eagles, 10-5, the Buccaneers earned a convincing 10-2 win in just six innings via the mercy rule, moving to 9-6 on the season. Having won nine of their first 15 games, the Bucs are off to the program's best start since 2009 when ETSU went 10-4 to begin the year.
"It's really good to bounce back from the Game Two loss yesterday," ETSU head coach Brad Irwin said. "We had the focus coming into the day of winning the series. After the split yesterday, that rubber game becomes very important. It was big for us to bounce back."
The Bucs, winners of six of their last seven games, have outscored their opponents 35-6 over the past 39 innings of play.
ETSU will look to continue its winning ways when it hosts Mercer for a three-game, conference-opening series beginning Saturday, March 8.
"We still have things to work on, but we feel good," Irwin said. "The Atlantic Sun is a tough conference. We still have to work on our approach and mentality, but it is exciting to have some momentum going into conference play."
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