JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (March 30, 2014) – The middle innings have been problematic for the ETSU baseball team this season and the theme continued on Sunday.
Northern Kentucky scored 13 runs between the fourth and seventh innings, and salvaged a win in the series as the Norse defeated the Bucs, 13-11, at Thomas Stadium.
The Blue and Gold – who have now been outscored 108-51 during the fourth through seventh innings this year – were looking to sweep NKU for the second straight season, but four ETSU errors accounted for seven unearned runs and the Norse went home with a two-run victory.
The Bucs jumped out to an early 3-0 lead after three innings of play, but the Norse tacked on a run in the fourth and took the lead for good when Cody Kuzniczci and Jordan Procyshen belted two-run home runs in the fifth to take a 5-3 advantage. From there, the Black and Gold continued to pile on as NKU eventually led by eight runs (13-5), but ETSU rallied for four runs in the eighth and two more in the ninth before the Norse eventually hung on for their first victory over the Bucs since 1978. The Bucs had the tying run at the plate with one out in the ninth, but junior right-hander Drew Campbell struck out Dylan Tritsch (Boca Raton, Fla.) swinging and forced Tyler Roach (Knoxville, Tenn.) to hit into a game-ending grounder to second.
For the second straight day, senior Clinton Freeman (Jonesborough, Tenn.) belted a pair of home runs, marking the fourth time in his career the Buccaneer slugger has homered twice in one game. The Jonesborough, Tenn. native tied a career high with four hits on Sunday as he went a perfect 4-for-4 with four runs scored and four RBI, and he is now hitting a perfect .400 on the season. For the weekend, Freeman hit .800 (8-10) with two doubles, four home runs, six runs, nine RBI and earned two saves.
Joining Freeman with a four-hit game was junior Chris Riopedre (Miami, Fla.) as he went 4-for-5 with one double, two runs, and two RBI. The four-hit game marked a career high for the Buccaneer shortstop. Meanwhile, Tritsch and Chris Cook (Kingsport, Tenn.) both extended streaks as they have now reached base safely in 13 straight games. Roach also kept his streak alive as he has reached safely in nine consecutive contests following a three-run home run in the eighth inning.
Freshman left-hander Adam Jafine earned his first collegiate win. Jafine allowed nine runs (six earned) on 10 hits in seven innings, moving his record to 1-4 on the year. Fellow freshman southpaw Jamin McCann (Kingsport, Tenn.) took the loss (2-2) for the Bucs as he was charged with five runs on nine hits in five innings of work.
Despite the setback, ETSU has still won consecutive conference series and moved its record to 13-13, 4-2 in A-Sun play, while NKU improved to 7-18, 2-4 on the campaign.
In all three games of the series, ETSU jumped out to a first-inning lead as the Bucs scored a pair of runs in the opening frame to take a 2-0 lead. The Blue and Gold did their damage with two outs as Freeman began the spurt with a double to left and scored on an RBI single by Riopedre, while the Buccaneer shortstop hustled home when Tritsch sent one back up the middle for an RBI single.
ETSU added to its lead in the third when Cook ripped a triple to the gap in right-center and scored on a sac-fly by Freeman, making it a 3-0 score.
Unfortunately, NKU’s bats woke up as the Norse scored 10 unanswered runs to grab a 10-3 lead after five-and-a-half innings of play.
The Norse pushed across their first run in the top of the fourth when Kyle Colletta’s two-out infield single scored Kuzniczci from third.
From there, NKU took the lead for good when Kuzniczci hit his third homer of the year and Procyshen connected on his second round tripper of the series to give the Norse a 5-3 advantage.
Things continued to get worse for the Blue and Gold an inning later when the Bucs committed a pair of errors and the Norse plated five runs (one earned) on five hits to extend their lead to 10-3.
The Bucs chipped away at their deficit by scoring two runs in the sixth (RBI single by Riopedre and sac-fly from Roach), but the Norse responded with three more unearned runs in the seventh to go ahead, 13-5.
Freeman sparked the late rally by leading off the eighth inning with a solo homer to right, while Roach belted a three-run dinger to left, making it a 13-9 ballgame. ETSU inched closer an inning later when Freeman smashed his second home run of the afternoon – pulling the Bucs within two. However, after Riopedre’s one-out single brought the tying run to the plate, Campbell secured the win by getting Tritsch and Roach out to end the game.
The Norse finished with a season-high 17 hits as NKU’s middle of the lineup went 9-for-17 with two doubles, two home runs, seven runs, and nine RBI. Kuzniczci, Procyshen and Logan Spurlin all finished with three hits each, while Kuzniczci scored three runs and drove in four.
The Bucs now embark on a five-game road swing beginning Tuesday night when ETSU takes on No. 21 Tennessee at 6 p.m. at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
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