LEXINGTON, Va. (April 11, 2015) – For the second straight night the Keydets loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth, but red-shirt freshman right-hander Dillon Cate (Sevierville, Tenn.) worked out of another jam as ETSU held on for a 9-6 series-clinching win over VMI on Saturday at Gray-Minor Stadium.
The Bucs, who led 9-3 after six and a half innings, saw the Keydets plate a run in each of the final three frames, but when the Blue and Gold needed a stop they called upon their closer and Cate worked his magic to close out the game. Cate entered the game with one out and runners on first and second in the bottom of the ninth and quickly loaded the bases as he walked the first hitter he saw on four straight pitches. Fortunately, like he did in Friday’s opener, Cate held the Keydets scoreless as he retired Will Connerley and Brandon Angus en route to registering his fourth save of the season.
Prior to VMI’s late-inning rally, the Buccaneers got a healthy dose of strong hitting and pitching to build their six-run advantage as senior right-hander Jimmy Nesselt (Planation, Fla.) struck out 11 and walked none to earn the win (4-3), while nine ETSU batters registered hits at the plate. Nesselt, who was one strikeout shy of tying his career high, allowed four runs (three earned) on 11 hits in 6.2 innings. The Plantation, Fla., native posted a stretch where he struck out seven of the 10 hitters he faced between the fourth-seventh innings.
At the plate, Trey York (Knoxville, Tenn.), Aaron Maher (Brentwood, Tenn.) and Danny Carrier (Cincinnati, Ohio) all recorded two hits, while Kevin Phillips (St. Louis, Mo.) and Zach Thompson (Johnson City, Tenn.) drove in a pair of runs to secure ETSU’s first winning series since March 13-15 when the Bucs swept Miami (Ohio). To go with his two RBI, Phillips reached base three times as he walked twice and drove in the two runs with a single in the fifth, while Thompson’s two-run scoring double in the seventh plated the eventual game-winning runs. Chris Cook (Kingsport, Tenn.) extended his streak of reaching base to 16 straight games after going 1 for 4 with two runs and a walk.
ETSU has now won its last three conference games and improved to 14-19, 3-5 in SoCon play, while VMI has dropped three straight and dipped to 9-19, 4-7.
VMI struck first as the Keydets scored two runs in the bottom of the first inning – an RBI double by Jordan Tarsovich and an RBI single from Tyler Tharp – but the Bucs rallied by plating runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings, while adding three more in the seventh to go ahead, 9-3.
The first six ETSU batters reached to begin a wild third inning as Thompson benefited from a two-base fielding error by Thomas Stallings at first to lead off the frame and the senior outfielder scored on Jeremy Taylor’s (Fayetteville, Ga.) RBI single, but Carrier – who reached on a single earlier in the inning – was thrown out on the play as he tried to advance from first to third on the single to center. Taylor moved up to second on the throw, advanced to third on a failed pickoff attempt by Brandon Barbery and the Buccaneer speedster later scored the second run of the inning on wild pitch. York capped off the scoring when his RBI single to left-center scored Cook, putting ETSU ahead for good, 3-2.
Both teams scratched across a run in the fourth as Thompson reached on a two-out fielding error by Barbery and sprinted home on Carrier’s double to left-center, while Will Connerley pulled VMI back within a run (4-3) as he led off the bottom of the inning with a home run to right-center.
ETSU’s offense kept its bats alive in the top of the fifth as the Blue and Gold scored two runs on five hits to extend their lead to three. Cook led off the frame with a single up the middle and moved to third on York’s double down the line right, while both Buccaneers scored on Phillips’ single to left; however, Phillips was gunned out at second as he tried to extend his hit into a double. Following the play, Hagen Owenby (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Maher both reached via singles and ETSU loaded the bases after Jordan Sanford (Powell, Tenn.) worked a five-pitch walk. Unfortunately, the Bucs were unable to do further damage as VMI reliever Andrew Woods struck out Thompson and Carrier to end the threat.
The Bucs made up from their minor hiccup in a big way as ETSU recorded its three-run seventh inning to go up six, 9-3. Phillips and Owenby both led off the inning with walks and the Blue and Gold loaded the bases when Sanford was hit by a pitch. With one out and nowhere to put Thompson, the Buccaneer senior came through with a clutch two-run scoring double and he later came home on Andrew Lasure’s (Stanford, Ky.) sacrifice fly RBI to left.
The insurance runs were pivotal as the Keydets scored solo runs in the final three innings to pull within three, but Cate stopped any VMI comeback to wrap up the series win. The Keydets picked up an RBI double by Tarsovich in the seventh, but Josh Jacques (Rollinsford, N.H.) entered into a two out situation with runners on second and third and got out of the jam by getting an inning-ending pop up. From there, Connerley belted his second solo home run of the game in the eighth, while Tharp’s infield RBI single in the ninth made it a three-run contest, forcing Cate to take over for Kain Hewitt (Gainesville, Ga.) to finish things off. Cate got Connerley to pop up to second and induced Angus into a game-ending fly out to right.
Barbery, who entered the day with an ERA below 3.00, took the loss (3-2) as he surrendered five runs (three earned) on six hits in four innings, while Woods tossed the final five innings out of the pen.
Tharp posted four of VMI’s 16 hits, while Tarsovich (three), Connerley (two), Ray Lopez (two) and Matt Winn (two) all finished with multi-hit efforts.
The Bucs look to finish the series sweep on Sunday as junior right-hander Griffin Krieg (Nashville, Tenn.) goes to the hill for ETSU. Game time is set for 1 p.m.
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