JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (April 15, 2003) - East Tennessee State and Tennessee treated the season-high 1,039 fans at Cardinal Park in Johnson City, Tenn. to a heated baseball matchup between in-state rivals. But in the end, the Volunteers had too much firepower as they outlasted the Bucs, 8-6, Tuesday night.
East Tennessee State (10-22) opened up the scoring in the bottom of the first as junior shortstop Andy Howdeshell (Maryville, Tenn.) hit his sixth home run of the season over the right field wall.
The Volunteers (21-14) responded with four runs in the top of the second on four hits and one Buccaneer error. After two outs were recorded, shortstop Brian Cleveland and second baseman Walter Sevilla hit back-to-back singles. They were then driven in with a double to right-center by left fielder Justin Branson to give the Vols a 2-1 advantage. Tennessee then loaded the bases after consecutive walks to first baseman Nick Crowe and center fielder Jordan Czarniecki. Branson and Crowe scored the next two Volunteer runs on a mishandled infield grounder.
The Bucs came right back in the bottom of the second and cut the UT lead in half as they played longball once again. With two outs in the inning, freshman right fielder Jordan Abromovitz (South Park, Pa.) launched his third homer of the season with a solo shot over the right field wall.
East Tennessee State then took their first lead of the game, 5-4, after scoring three runs in the bottom of the third. With one out, Howdeshell doubled to center field. ETSU loaded the bases on consecutive walks to sophomore catcher Caleb Moore (Knoxville, Tenn.) and sophomore designated hitter Davis Burklin (Knoxville, Tenn.). Freshman center fielder Steven Calicutt (Spartanburg, S.C.) drove in his 11th run of the season after being hit by a pitch and forcing in Howdeshell. Freshman third baseman Shane Byrne (Johnson City, Tenn.) then came to the plate and laced a single to right center, bringing home Moore and Burklin.
Tennessee tied the game at five with a single run in the top of the fourth. With two outs, Nick Crowe drew his second walk of the evening. Czarniecki then singled to center, advancing Crowe to third. The Vols then successfully executed a double-steal, with Czarniecki taking second and Crowe swiping home.
The next two innings went quietly, as Tennessee got outstanding relief pitching from Johnson City native Brandon Crowe, and ETSU junior starter Tim Turner (Marietta, Ga.) settled into a groove.
In the top of the seventh, the Volunteers broke the 5-5 tie by scoring three crucial runs. Designated hitter Alex Suarez led off the inning by hitting his first homer of the season to deep left field on the first pitch of the frame. After a walk to third baseman Kyle Norrid, Sevilla doubled to right field. Norrid scored and Sevilla advanced to third on the throw to the plate. Sevilla then crossed the plate on a sacrifice bunt by pinch hitter Josh Alley.
East Tennessee State chipped away at the Volunteer lead, scoring a run in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, Moore hit a triple down the right field line and came home on a grounder to third by Burklin.
After ETSU sophomore righty Trevor Smith (Newport, Tenn.) recorded the first two outs of the eighth, the Buccaneers then brought in senior right-hander Willie McKenzie (Kingsport, Tenn.). McKenzie had a strong outing, allowing two singles and striking out three Volunteers over the final 1.1 innings, keeping ETSU in the game.
ETSU had chances to trim the lead further in the final two innings, but Brandon Crowe shut the door on both occasions. Calicutt led off the eighth with a double, but Crowe retired the next three batters to end the threat. Then in the bottom of the ninth, with two down, Moore hit a double to right. But the next batter, Burklin, hit the ball very hard, but right to Czarniecki to end the game.
Crowe (2-0) got the victory, pitching 6.1 innings of solid relief, allowing one run on three hits and striking out five. ETSU junior Josh Kite (Greeneville, Tenn.) was charged with the loss (2-6) after pitching the seventh inning and allowing three earned runs on two hits, walking one and striking out one.
Howdeshell and Moore led the Bucs with two hits and two runs scored on the night. Byrne had a team-high two RBI.
"We got some big hits tonight, and we were in the ball game," said ETSU head coach Tony Skole following the game. "Our kids played hard, but they had more offensive firepower. Give Tennessee credit, they are a good ball club."
Cleveland led the Vols with three hits, while Czarniecki, Suarez, Sevilla and Nick Crowe each had two. Sevilla and Crowe had a team-high two runs scored, while Branson led the team with two RBI.
"There are a lot of close relationships between players on these two teams tonight," said Skole. "Everyone went out there and competed hard, and that is what college baseball is all about."
East Tennessee State will next travel to Charleston, S.C. for a three-game weekend series with Southern Conference rival The Citadel. Friday night's first pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. from Riley Park.