Bucs split home opener with Valparaiso
Tuesday, March 13, 2007

(March 13, 2007) - After playing its first 20 games away from home the ETSU softball team finally played its home opener on Wednesday, and split a doubleheader with Valparaiso. The Bucs took game one, 4-3, and dropped the nightcap, 4-1.


ETSU got things rolling in game one when senior Stephanie Gaynord (Manassas, Va.) led off with a double and scored two plays later on a single by Amanda Haverman (Kirkwood, Mo.). Sophomore Mary Catherine Vercoe (Signal Mountain, Tenn.) cruised through the first four innings, extending her consecutive scoreless innings streak to 16. Vercoe looked to have 17 straight in the bag by getting two of the first three Valparaiso hitters out in the fifth; however, she surrendered three straight hits to the Crusaders (two singles and one double), giving the visitors a 3-1 lead.


The Bucs did not waste any time getting revenge as they took advantage of a Valparaiso fielding mistake when Caitlin Zyskowski (Grand Rapids, Mich.) reached on a costly error by the Crusaders second baseman. Briana Knight (Brier, Wash.) doubled two plays later, but a Gaynord fly out to left on the next play should have ended the inning. However, the extra out gave freshman Katy Jett (Talbot, Tenn.) a chance to step up to the plate and she took full advantage of her at-bat by belting her second home run of the season, putting ETSU back up 4-3.


Valparaiso had a chance to take the lead in the sixth, but Vercoe worked out of two-out jam and left the potential go-ahead run at second. Freshman Darci Gilbert (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) closed the game out as she faced four Crusader batters in the seventh to earn her third save of the season. The win gave Vercoe her third consecutive victory as she pushed her record to 6-5 on the season.


Despite out-hitting the Crusaders, 9-to-7, the Bucs were unable to pick up their third sweep in six days; as costly fielding mistakes hurt ETSU's chances in game two. The Bucs committed three of their four errors in the first two innings, leading to two quick Valparaiso runs in the first.


Gaynord started things off on the right note for ETSU as she led off the bottom half of the inning with a single and eventually scored when Jessie Hackworth (Clinton, Tenn.) drove her in with a double. The Bucs missed their first opportunity to tie the game as they left runners on first and third to end the inning. ETSU also had chances in the second and third, but left runners on both times.


The Crusaders extended their lead to three, 4-1, when they pushed two more runs across the plate in the fifth. Tracy Korth's single scored Ashley Wolter; however, the Bucs looked to be out of the inning when Shannon Robinson flied deep to left, but freshman Cheniece Cason (Moreno Valley, Calif.) and sophomore Kate Powell (Johnson City) collided in the outfield. Cason looked to have control of the ball, but the umpire signaled the ball hit the ground, leading to the Crusaders fourth run as Korth scored from first.


ETSU missed its chances late in the game when they stranded five runners in the final two innings. The Bucs had runners on second and third with one out in the sixth but failed to push runs across the plate. They also left the bases loaded in the seventh, leading to the 4-1 defeat. ETSU could not get any timely hitting in the nightcap as they left 11 runners on base. Gilbert allowed four runs (one earned) on seven hits as she suffered the loss.


With the split ETSU moves to 10-12 on the season, while Valparaiso goes to 10-6.


The Bucs have a quick turnaround as they host the Winthrop Eagles on Wednesday. First pitch is slated for 2 p.m. at Metro-Kiwanis Park.