JOHNSON CITY, TN- The ETSU softball team went toe-to-toe with BIG EAST favorite St. John’s, but after scoring three runs in the bottom of the seventh to pull even at six, the Red Storm plated the game-winning run on a sacrifice fly in the top of the eighth inning to hold on for a 7-6 victory on Sunday afternoon at Betty Basler Field.
Despite trailing by four runs after two and a half innings and by three after six, the Bucs fought back but couldn’t get over the hump. Taylor Carter (Brazil, Ind.) drove in the tying run on a double to left in the seventh; however, after having runners on second and third with no outs, ETSU left the winning run stranded. An inning later, the Bucs had the tying run at third with one out and the winning run at second with two outs, but St. John’s ended the game when Tori Free struck out Tiffany Laughren (Erwin, Tenn.) swinging.
ETSU had its chances, but the Blue and Gold left 11 runners stranded despite totaling a season-high 14 hits. Mykeah Johnson (Cohutta, Ga.) and Danielle Knoetze (San Diego, Calif.) both recorded three-hit games, while Carter went 2-for-4 with three RBI. Laughren and Cassi Pickett (Chattanooga, Tenn.) also finished with two hits each. Johnson – who finished with a career-high three hits – also walked and scored a run, while Quinn Giesick (Bakersfield, Calif.) reached base twice, scored two runs and drove in the first run in the seventh inning on an RBI single. Knoetze – who tied a career-high with three hits – smacked her fifth home run of the season, which ties her for the team lead with Carter.
Lindsey Fadnek (Coalfield, Tenn.) got the start for the Buccaneers and allowed four runs (three earned) on eight hits with three strikeouts and zero walks in 4.1 innings. Unfortunately, after allowing no hits and the unearned run, Madison Ogle (Maryville, Tenn.) suffered the loss (3-5) as she pitched the eighth inning. Freshman Kelly Schmidt (Norcross, Ga.) – who retired the first three hitters she faced out of the bullpen – issued three runs (two earned) on four hits in 2.2 innings.
The Bucs have now lost three straight and moved to 8-10, while St. John’s – who was picked to win the BIG EAST – improved to 10-8.
The Red Storm charged out of the gates as they pushed across three in the second and plated an unearned run in the third to go ahead, 4-0.
ETSU answered with two runs in the third and pulled within one when Knoetze led off the fifth inning with a home run to left, making it a 4-3 game. Carter got the Blue and Gold on the board in the second when her two-out, two-RBI single to right-center scored Laughren and Giesick.
St. John’s extended its lead to 6-3 in the sixth when Gretchen Bowie cracked a one-out home run to right-center, and Lauren Zick worked a four-pitch walk and later scored on Kaitlin Mattera’s two-out RBI single up the middle.
After Schmidt worked out of a jam in the seventh, the Buccaneer offense came alive in the bottom half of the inning as ETSU plated three runs to tie the game at six. Johnson started the surge with a leadoff single – and after moving to third on a wild pitch – she scored on Giesick’s RBI single up the middle. From there, Knoetze doubled and Giesick scored on Laughren’s single to right. With no outs and runners on the corners, Carter laced a double to left, which scored Knoetze to pull even at six. However, with runners on second and third and no outs, Tori Free came out of the bullpen and got the Red Storm out trouble. Free got Taylor Wright (Erwin, Tenn.) and Emma Martindale (Johnson City, Tenn.) to ground out to second, while getting Pickett to line out to third.
For the second straight game ETSU suffered a one-run setback due to the international tiebreaker rule as the Red Storm placed Bowie at second to start the eighth inning. After moving to third on a sacrifice bunt, Bowie beat Knoetze’s throw to the plate on on Krystal Puga’s sac fly RBI to right.
In the bottom half of the eighth, Martindale was placed on second and she moved to third on Kelsey Chernak’s (Ooltewah, Tenn.) sac bunt. However, after loading the bases courtesy of walks by Johnson and Knoetze, Laughren battled as she worked a 2-2 count – but on the seventh pitch – Free got the Buccaneer sophomore out swinging to end the game.
Free earned the win (2-4) as she tossed two scoreless innings, while Monique Landini recorded three of St. John’s 12 hits in the winning effort. Bowie went 1-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBI, while Christina Melendez and Savannah Warren each finished with two hits and scored a run.
The Bucs return to action on Wednesday as ETSU heads to Morehead, Ky., for a doubleheader at Morehead State, beginning at 2 p.m.
Courtesy: East Tennessee State Athletics