JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (April 12, 2014) – Senior Clinton Freeman (Jonesborough, Tenn.) had the eventual game-winning hit with a two-run scoring single in the fifth and the southpaw closed things out by earning his 18th career save, as the ETSU baseball team clinched the series win by defeating North Florida, 8-5, on Saturday afternoon at Thomas Stadium.
Despite having the Ospreys jump out to an early 2-0 lead, the Bucs fought back behind a key 2-RBI double by Chris Riopedre (Miami, Fla.) in the third – and after UNF pulled within a run following a three-run seventh – junior Jordan Sanford (Powell, Tenn.) came through with a clutch two-run scoring pinch hit single in the bottom of the inning.
Freeman and Jeremy Taylor (Fayetteville, Ga.) both tallied two-hit games for the Blue and Gold, while Freeman, Riopedre and Sanford drove in six of ETSU’s eight runs. Freeman went 2 for 3 with a walk, two runs and two RBI, and Taylor went 2 for 4 with a run scored. Senior Dylan Tritsch (Boca Raton, Fla.) extended his streak of reaching base safely to 21 straight games after he singled in the second, but he was forced to leave the game after being hit by a pitch in the third.
Overall, seven different players accounted for ETSU’s nine hits as Chris Cook (Kingsport, Tenn.), Gage Downey (Franklin, Tenn.) and Riopedre all recorded doubles for the Bucs. Cook, who had the walk-off single in Friday’s win, scored two runs and had an RBI, while Downey also scored twice in the winning effort.
Junior right-hander Jimmy Nesselt (Plantation, Fla.) picked up the win (3-3) after allowing five runs (four earned) on 11 hits in 6.1 innings of work, while the ETSU bullpen combined for 2.2 scoreless innings in relief. Senior left-hander Jared Burton (Knoxville, Tenn.) tossed 1.2 innings of no-hit ball, while striking out a pair of UNF hitters. Burton entered with one out and runners on the corners in the seventh, but kept the Bucs’ one-run lead intact by working out of the dicey situation. Freeman entered in the ninth and issued a pair of one-out singles, but the Jonesborough, Tenn. native worked out of the minor jam by forcing the next two Osprey hitters to fly out en route to moving into a tie for second-place with Caleb Moore (2002-05) on the ETSU all-time saves list.
ETSU has now won its last three games and picked up its third conference series win of the season, improving to 17-17, 6-5 in A-Sun play. UNF suffered its third straight setback and moved to 15-20, 6-8. With the victory, the Bucs earned their first series win over the Ospreys since sweeping UNF in 2011, while it’s the first series clincher at home since taking two of three in 2006.
The Bucs had to play catch up early as UNF plated a run in the first and Corbin Olmstead belted a solo homer in the third to take a 2-0 lead.
The Blue and Gold answered and did so in a big way by scoring six unanswered runs – three in the third and three more in the fifth – to jump ahead, 6-2, after five innings of play.
Downey jump-started the offense by leading off the third inning with a bloop double down the line in right and advanced to third on a sac-bunt by Taylor. After Cook hit into a groundout to short, UNF walked Freeman, which brought Riopedre to the plate with runners on the corners and two outs. Riopedre came through with his 10th two-out hit of the season as he drove in the two runs with a double to left and eventually scored on the wild play. The Ospreys tried to gun down Freeman at the plate as he scored from first, while Riopedre went to third and scored after the errant throw by shortstop Kyle Brooks’ hit Freeman in the back and went into the Buccaneer dugout.
In the fifth, it was Downey again who reached safely to lead off the inning as he was hit by a pitch and later scored on Cook’s double to right. From there, Cook and Taylor – who singled to short earlier in the frame – scored on Freeman’s two-run scoring single to center, giving ETSU a four-run cushion.
However, just as they did in the series opener, UNF fought back and made it a one-run game after scoring three runs on five hits in the seventh. The Ospreys picked up RBI singles by Kyle Brooks, Drew Weeks, and Trent Higginbothem, which brought Nesselt’s day to an end after UNF made it a 6-5 score and had runners on the corners with only one out. Fortunately, Burton responded to the massive challenge and silenced the UNF rally as he struck out Alex Bacon on four pitches, while inducing pinch hitter Garrick Ferguson into an inning-ending groundout to the mound.
With momentum hanging in the balance, the Bucs quickly regained control of the contest when Sanford delivered the knockout punch when his pinch hit single to right-center scored Cook and Freeman, making it an 8-5 ballgame.
The Ospreys tried to rally in the ninth, but Freeman converted on his eighth consecutive save opportunity of the season to lock up the series win.
UNF starter Evan Incinelli was dealt the loss (3-4) after being charged with six runs (five earned) on six hits in 4.1 innings of work.
Offensively, the Ospreys out-hit the Bucs, 13-9, while Weeks paced UNF with three hits and Higginbothem drove in two of the five runs.
The Bucs go for their first series sweep of the year on Sunday afternoon. First pitch is slated for 1:05 p.m. as ETSU sends freshman left-hander Jamin McCann (Kingsport, Tenn.) to the hill and UNF counters with sophomore righty Corbin Olmstead.
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