From the fourth inning on, the ETSU baseball team was
playing catch-up, and despite scoring five runs in the fourth and two more in
the seventh, the Bucs couldn't finish off the rally as Tennessee hung on for a
9-7 win on Tuesday evening Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
The Bucs – who had their six-game winning streak come to
an end – were led by senior second baseman Derek Niesman (Wellington, Fla.) and
sophomore shortstop Chris Riopedre (Miami, Fla.). Niesman went 2-for-3 with a
home run and two RBI, while Riopedre registered two hits and a pair of RBI.
Sophomore infielder Jordan Sanford (Powell, Tenn.) also drove in a pair of runs
with his two-out RBI single in the seventh and junior Clinton Freeman
(Jonesborough, Tenn.) recorded a two-hit game.
ETSU (6-2) had its chances late to take the lead as the
Bucs had the tying run on second with one out in the ninth, but Tennessee's
closer Trevor Bettencourt worked out of the jam to earn his first save of the
season. Tennessee starter Matt Esparza earned the win (1-1) after allowing two
runs on three hits in 3.1 innings, while Josh Jacques (Rollinsford, N.H.)
suffered the loss (0-1). Jacques – who didn't allow a hit – was tagged for two
runs and walked two in 1.1 innings of relief.
After both teams were held scoreless in the first two
innings, Tennessee (3-5) struck first as the Vols plated six runs on four hits
in the bottom of the third to take a 6-0 lead. Tennessee's David Houser walked
to lead off the inning and scored the first run on a one-out RBI single by Jeff
Moberg. After Scott Price was intentionally walked to load the bases, Parker
Wormsley executed a perfect squeeze play as his bunt scored Will Maddox. From
there, the Vols scored a pair of runs on a two-run scoring triple by Vance
Vizcaino, while an RBI double from Pierce Bily and an RBI single by Vincent
Jackson capped off the Tennessee scoring plays.
ETSU answered with a big inning of its own in the top of
the fourth and cut the deficit to a run, 6-5, courtesy of the five-run,
five-hit frame. Niesman put the Bucs on the board when his one-out, two-run
home run to left scored Freeman – who earlier ripped a one-out double to right
– making it a 6-2 ballgame. The Bucs weren't done scoring as Zach Thompson
(Johnson City, Tenn.) singled following the two-run homer – and after moving
over to third on a pair of wild pitches – the Johnson City, Tenn. native scored
on Trey York's (Knoxville, Tenn.) RBI single to left. With one out and the
bases loaded, Riopedre made it a one-run game when his single up the middle
brought in both Jordan Sanford (Powell, Tenn.) and York. However, Tennessee's
reliever Nick Williams left a pair of Buccaneer runners stranded as he forced
Andrew Green (Powell, Tenn.) to foul out to left and struck out Dylan Tritsch
(Boca Raton, Fla.) swinging to end the inning.
Tennessee threatened in the bottom of the fourth, but
freshman lefty Sam Eichler (Mission Viejo, Calif.) did a solid job working out
of the jam. The Vols had runners on second and third with two outs when
Wormsley tried to lay down another squeeze, but Eichler fielded the bunt with
ease and threw him out at first to end the inning.
The Bucs put the tying run on in the top of the fifth
when Freeman sprinted to second after Pierce dropped a fly ball in center, but
A.J. Simcox robbed Niesman of a hit at short and doubled up Freeman on the play
to end any rally.
The Vols added to their lead in the bottom of the inning
by pushing three runs (one earned) across the plate, giving Tennessee a
four-run cushion, 9-5. The first three Tennessee hitters reached to start the
inning, thanks to a walk, an error by Riopedre at short, and an infield single
from Jackson. Tennessee's first two runs came in on RBI ground outs, while a
two-out double by Maddox scored Jackson.
Once again, the Blue and Gold continued to battle and
chipped away at their deficit in the seventh. ETSU pulled within two runs of
Tennessee when Sanford's two-out single made it a 9-7 score as Tritsch and
Green crossed the plate on the hit.
In the ninth, the Bucs put a scare into the Vols as
Tritsch was hit to lead off the inning and Freeman singled to right, leading to
a Niesman sac-bunt to put the runners into scoring position. Unfortunately,
ETSU couldn't come away with the clutch hit as pinch hitter Alex Reynolds
(Johnson City, Tenn.) battled off eight pitches before striking out and
Bettencourt induced Sanford into a game-ending pop out to short.
Tennessee was led by Maddox and Jackson as they recorded
six of the Vols' ten hits by totaling three hits each.
The Bucs return home to take on Marist in a three-game
series, beginning Friday afternoon at 3:05 p.m., from Thomas Stadium.