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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (March 28, 2015) – Hunter King belted a pair of two-run home runs and Bryant Stafford worked out of a bases loaded situation in the bottom of the ninth as UNCG held on for a 7-5 series-clinching win over ETSU on Saturday at Thomas Stadium.
Despite falling behind 5-0 for the second straight game, ETSU (11-14, 0-5 SoCon) fought back and pulled within a run after pushing across two runs in the third and fourth innings, but Tyler Frazier worked out of a jam in the bottom of the sixth and Stafford did the same in the ninth to secure the conference victory. With UNCG (12-12, 4-1 SoCon) clinging to its one-run lead, Frazier kept the tying run at third as he struck out Trey York (Knoxville, Tenn.) swinging to end the sixth inning, while the Bucs had the bases loaded with one out in the ninth but couldn’t generate the timely hit. Stafford struck out Andrew Lasure (Stanford, Ky.) on three pitches and induced Daniel Tucker (Hendersonville, Tenn.) into a game-ending fly out to right.
The Bucs managed to out-hit the Spartans, 13-7, but ETSU went 3 for 9 with runners in scoring position and left 10 runners on base.
ETSU’s top four hitters combined to go 10 for 17 with one double, two home runs, three runs and five RBI as sophomore Chris Cook (Kingsport, Tenn.) and York led the way with three hits each. Cook went 3 for 4 with a home run, two runs and two RBI, while York finished 3 for 5 with a home run, run scored and two RBI. Cook and York got the Bucs on the board with back-to-back homers in the third. Meanwhile, junior Kevin Phillips (St. Louis, Mo.) and freshman Hagen Owenby (Knoxville, Tenn.) reached base three times (two hits and walk). Owenby doubled and Phillips drove in a run in the bottom of the ninth.
Junior Lee Haeberle (Hendersonville, Tenn.) – who retired 12 straight UNCG hitters from the third through the seventh innings – suffered the loss (2-4) as he allowed seven runs on seven hits, while striking out seven and walking three in a season-high seven innings. Fellow junior Josh Jacques (Rollinsford, N.H.) retired all six Spartan hitters he faced in his two innings of work.
UNCG – who plated a pair of two-out runs in the first on Friday – pushed a two-out run across in the top of the first to go ahead, 1-0. Zac MacAneney led off with a walk and came around to score on Aaron Wright’s single to left.
The Spartans added to their lead with a four-run third – highlighted by the first two-run homer from King – but ETSU finally got on the board when Cook and York hit back-to-back solo homers in the bottom of the inning, making it a 5-2 game.
Cook and York continued giving the Spartans fits in the fourth as they helped pull the Bucs within a run, 5-4. Cook’s sac-fly to right drove in Jordan Sanford (Powell, Tenn.) – who reached on a double – and York beat out a two-out infield single to score Jeremy Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.) from third.
However, with Haeberle silencing the Spartan offense in the middle innings, ETSU was unable to take its first lead of the series.
The Bucs had a golden opportunity in the sixth as Taylor worked a two-out walk, stole second, but was held at third when UNCG third baseman Collin Woody kept Cook’s hit in the infield. Woody’s strong defensive play proved to be key as Frazier came out of the pen and struck out York on a 3-2 pitch, keeping the Spartans’ one-run lead intact.
UNCG added to its lead in the top of the seventh to go up, 7-4. MacAneney looked to have grounded into a 4-6-3 double play, but kept the inning alive by beating Sanford’s throw to first. King then delivered with his second two-run homer run as he put one up in the jet stream and barely cleared the wall in straightaway center, giving UNCG a three-run cushion.
ETSU didn’t go down quietly as Cook, York and Phillips strung together three one-out hits in the ninth, making it a 7-5 game as Cook scored on Phillips’ single to left. However, after Owenby worked a walk to load the bases, Stafford retired the next two Buccaneer hitters to register his second save of the series.
Frazier earned the win (2-0) as he tossed 2.1 scoreless innings and fanned four of the seven hitters he faced. UNCG starter Brennen James didn’t factor in the decision as he allowed four runs on eight hits and walked two in four innings.
King drove in four of the seven runs for the Spartans, while Wright also added two hits and MacAneney scored three runs.
The Bucs will look to snap their seven-game losing skid in the series finale on Sunday. First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m. at Thomas Stadium.
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