NASHVILLE (May 31, 2013) – Vanderbilt got all the offense they needed in the bottom of the first and the second-ranked Commodores cruised to a 9-1 victory over ETSU in front of a sell-out crowd of 3,503 fans Friday night at Hawkins Field.
The Bucs – who were playing in their first NCAA Regional game since 1981 – came out with nerves and Vanderbilt capitalized, as the host team scored five runs in the first and got seven strong innings from junior left-hander Kevin Ziomek. Ziomek, a semifinalist for the 2013 Golden Spikes Award, held the Blue and Gold to one unearned run on three hits while striking out five and walking one to improve his record to 11-2. Meanwhile, sophomore Jimmy Nesselt (Plantation, Fla.) – who replaced scheduled starter Kerry Doane (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) – suffered the loss (2-3) despite bouncing back after the tough five-run first. Nesselt was charged with eight runs (five earned) on 10 hits in 6.2 innings of action. The Buccaneer right-hander also struck out two and didn’t issue a walk.
Senior Derek Niesman (Wellington, Fla.) had one of the five ETSU hits to extend his hit streak to 17 straight games and junior Dylan Tritsch (Boca Raton, Fla.) recorded a pair of hits, resulting in his team-leading 24th multi-hit game of the campaign. Fellow junior Clinton Freeman (Jonesborough, Tenn.) finished 1-for-3 and drove in the lone Buccaneer run when his sacrifice fly in the sixth brought in freshman Jeremy Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.).
ETSU had its season-best seven-game win streak snapped Friday night as the Blue and Gold – who have still won 14 of their last 19 – dipped to 36-23. Vanderbilt, the overall number two seed in the NCAA Tournament, improved to 52-9 with the victory.
The Commodores made a statement early by plating the five runs on six hits and jumped out to a 5-0 lead after one inning of play. After Nesselt struck out Vanderbilt’s leadoff hitter Tony Kemp, the next four Commodore batters registered hits and picked up RBIs from Conrad Gregor (two-RBI single), Rhett Wiseman (single), Vince Conde (sacrifice fly), and Spencer Navin (single) to put the large dent on the scoreboard.
Nesselt settled in nicely after the bumpy first as he retired 15 straight Vanderbilt batters until back-to-back two-out bunt singles in the sixth snapped the streak, but the Buccaneer hurler got out of the inning by getting Navin to tap into an inning-ending grounder to third.
Unfortunately, the Blue and Gold had no answers for Ziomek in front of the raucous Vanderbilt crowd.
ETSU finally got on the board in the sixth as Taylor was hit by a pitch to lead off the frame and moved to second when Tritsch reached on a fielding error by Ziomek. After Taylor advanced to third on a deep fly out by Andrew Green (Powell, Tenn.), the freshman right fielder scored the Bucs’ only run of the night on Freeman’s sac-fly, making it a 5-1 score.
The Bucs threatened yet again in the seventh when the Blue and Gold had two on with only one out, but Mason Hershey (Altoona, Pa.) was robbed of extra bases by right fielder Mike Yastrzemski for the second out and Ziomek induced Taylor to ground out to short for his final pitch of the night.
Vanderbilt added three unearned runs in the seventh to extend its lead to, 8-1, as Connor Harrell capped off the inning with a two-run homer over the left-center wall, while the Commodores added their final run in the eighth on Jack Lupo’s sac-fly to right.
Steven Rice tossed the final two innings in relief and scattered a pair of hits along with striking out two.
The Commodores finished the night with 11 hits as Harrell, Gregor, Wiseman, and Xavier Turner provided Vanderbilt with two-hit efforts. Harrell, Gregor, and Wiseman combined to go 6-for-12 with four runs scored and five RBI.
The Bucs will now take on number two seed Georgia Tech in an elimination game Saturday at 3 p.m. (Eastern). The Yellow Jackets suffered a 6-4 setback to Illinois earlier on Friday.
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