GREENVILLE, S.C. (May 26, 2017) – The ETSU baseball team battled back-and-forth with No. 3 UNCG on Friday afternoon, but the Bucs’ ninth inning comeback fell short as they fell 6-4 to the Spartans in the Southern Conference Tournament presented by Holston Gases at Fluor Field in Greenville, S.C.
Despite being down 6-4 going into the bottom of the ninth, the Bucs had a chance to comeback in the final inning as they had runners at the corners with no outs. Hunter Parker (Chattanooga, Tenn.) and Chris Cook (Kingsport, Tenn.) started the rally for ETSU with back-to-back singles to put two runners on base. UNCG was forced to make its fourth pitching change of the afternoon as they brought in Jack Maynard to close the game.
ETSU thought it had won the game as Aaron Maher (Brentwood, Tenn.) nearly connected a three run home run down the right field line, but the ball curled just in front of the foul pole on the first pitch he saw. Maher saw five more pitches in the at-bat, but he popped out softly to short to end his at-bat. With only one out, Hagen Owenby (Knoxville, Tenn.) came up to bat with a chance to end the game. The Spartans pitched to him carefully, and after working a 3-0 count, Owenby connected with the game-ending double play to seal UNCG’s 6-4 victory and end ETSU’s comeback.
The pitching staff struck out nine batters, which broke the school record for the third year in a row for strikeouts in a single season. The Bucs currently have 438, which bested last year’s record by two.
Cook and Parker each cracked two hits while Cook tallied his team-leading 20th double of the season. Jammer Strickland (Knoxville, Tenn.) posted a pair of RBIs, which came in the fourth inning off a bloop hit to right field. Christian Bailey (Kingsport, Tenn.) was the third Buccaneer to record a RBI as he finished the game going 1-for-3.
Three ETSU pitchers – Peyton Taylor (Kingsport, Tenn.), Jamin McCann (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Connor Bartow (Jonesborough, Tenn.) – did not surrender an earned run in the afternoon game. Taylor twirled two innings while striking out a pair of Spartans in the fourth and fifth innings. McCann faced one batter in the sixth inning. He surrendered a hit, but Owenby threw out the Spartan trying to steal second base. Bartow was the final ETSU pitcher as he tossed one inning of work while striking out two opponents.
Owenby caught two Spartans trying to steal second base, which brought his postseason total to three in two games.
ETSU falls to 28-28 overall while UNCG advances to 33-21.
With the loss, the Buccaneers will square off with VMI on Friday night at 7 p.m. for the right to play the winner of No. 1 Mercer/ No. 6 Samford on Saturday, May 27 at 3:30 p.m. at Fluor Field in Greenville, S.C.
How It Happened
UNCG took advantage of two leadoff walks to start the game as Michael Goss capitalized with a two RBI single with one out.
The Bucs broke-up Matt Frisbee’s no-hitter in the third inning as Parker connected with a single to center field. He swiped second for his 10th stolen base of the year, and Cook smashed a double to deep center field, which plated his teammate and made the game 2-1.
In the next inning, Strickland kept his hot bat alive as he dropped a bloop single to right field, which scored two teammates. The two runs gave ETSU its first lead of the game at 3-2.
The Spartans retaliated in the fifth as they scored a base runner off a fielding error, but ETSU matched UNCG with a run of its own as Bailey picked up the RBI on a groundout back to the pitcher in the home-half of the inning.
UNCG scored three unanswered runs in the next three innings as Ryan Clinch connected with a two RBI single, and Cesar Trejo poked a solo home run in the eighth frame to make it a 6-4 game.
ETSU attempted the ninth inning comeback, but the rally fell short as Maynard forced a game-ending 6-4-3 double play.