The Citadel plated three runs in the fourth and added five more in the bottom of the seventh, and the Bulldogs defeated ETSU, 8-2, on Tuesday in the play-in game of the Southern Conference Championship at Riley Park.
The Bucs pulled within a run in the top of the seventh, but The Citadel broke things open by scoring five in the bottom of the inning to seal the six-run victory, featuring the No. 8-9 seeds in the single-elimination play-in game.
Junior left-hander and SoCon Pitcher of the Year James Reeves (8-3) allowed two runs (one earned) on seven hits, while striking out eight and walking one in seven innings of work to earn the win. Skylar Hunter, the conference’s all-time saves leader, tossed the final two innings of scoreless ball to finish the contest.
Senior right-hander Jimmy Nesselt (Plantation, Fla.) suffered the loss (5-7) in his final game in the Blue and Gold. Nesselt, who tied the single-season strikeout record in the setback, surrendered four runs on five hits in 6.1 innings. The Plantation, Fla. native struck out four, moving his season-ending total to 107, tying him with Reid Casey for the single-season program record.
ETSU had its chances, but the Bucs combined to go 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position, while the Bulldogs were 6-of-9 in the same situations and outscored the Blue and Gold, 6-1, with two outs.
Junior Jeremy Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.) finished the season reaching base safely in his last 31 games. Fellow junior Trey York (Knoxville, Tenn.) and senior Zach Thompson (Johnson City, Tenn.) both reached twice and accounted for both runs. York was 1-for-3 with a walk and Thompson finished his collegiate career going 2-for-4 with a run scored. Freshmen Hagen Owenby (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Christian Bailey (Kingsport, Tenn.) both doubled in the setback.
The game was a classic pitcher’s duel early on as Nesselt and Reeves hung goose eggs in the first three innings, while the Bucs left runners in scoring position in both the third and fourth as the SoCon Pitcher of the Year got out the jams unscathed.
The Citadel made ETSU pay in the bottom of the fourth as a communication blunder with two outs came back to haunt the Blue and Gold. With two outs and runners on first and second, Steven Hansen hit one to the gap in left-center, forcing Taylor to run over from center and Jordan Sanford (Powell, Tenn.) coming over from left. Taylor hustled and had the ball in his glove, but Sanford clipped him, resulting in the Buccaneer center fielder tripping up and the ball popped out as he went to the ground allowing two runs to score. From there, Hansen came home on an RBI single from Ryan Kilgallen, making it a 3-0 game.
The Bucs chipped away at their deficit by pushing across a run in the sixth and seventh to pull within one, 3-2.
York reached on a one-out walk in the sixth, moved to third on a failed pickoff attempt by Reeves and scored on Kevin Phillips’ (St. Louis, Mo.) RBI ground out, while Thompson scored on Robby McCabe’s (New Port Richey, Fla.) two-out RBI pinch-hit single in the seventh. However, after Taylor laced a two-out single to center and advanced to second on the throw, ETSU was unable to get the clutch hit to drive in both runs as Reeves induced Cook into an inning-ending fly out to center.
Unfortunately, that’s as close as the Bucs could get.
The floodgates opened in the bottom of the inning as the Bulldogs scored five runs on five hits, extending their lead to six, 8-2. Following a one-out walk, Nesselt’s day was done, while Lee Haeberle (Hendersonville, Tenn.) was greeted rudely as he issued a pair of singles to load the bases and walked in a run forcing the Bucs to make another change. Junior right-hander Griffin Krieg (Nashville, Tenn.) was unable to limit the damage as surrendered a pair of RBI singles and an RBI double.
Hunter started the eighth inning for The Citadel and retired six of the eight hitters he faced to secure the six-run victory.
Overall, eight Bulldog batters accounted for their 11 hits as Steven Windham, Jacob Watcher and William Kinney all finished with two hits. Windham also drove in two runs, along with Hansen.
With win, The Citadel (26-28) enters into the double-elimination bracket and faces Mercer on Wednesday, while ETSU completed its season at 21-35.