JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (April 12, 2014) - An inspired late-inning effort by the ETSU softball team helped the Bucs fend off a North Florida comeback and escape Betty Basler Field with a 6-5 win in Game Two of Saturday's Atlantic Sun double-header.
A sixth-inning RBI-single by senior Jackie Baird (Ooltewah, Tenn.), her team-best 34th RBI of the season, proved to be the game-winner for ETSU.
Freshman pitcher Taylor Carter (Brazil, Ind.) gave up no earned runs through the game's opening four innings, allowing the Buccaneers (16-24, 5-12) to enter the fifth inning with a 5-1 lead. However, a costly error with two outs in the top of the fifth gave North Florida extra life, which Mariah Reynolds took advantage of, belting a two-run homer to left field.
The Ospreys (24-19, 8-12) mounted their final offensive attack in the top of the sixth inning, trailing, 5-3, by placing runners on second and third with two outs. Ashley Holton then drove a 2-2 pitch to shallow right field, where right fielder Alex Everett (Soddy Daisy, Tenn.) began a reckless pursuit of the fly ball.
Running at full sprint, Everett made a diving attempt and seemed to have caught the ball for the third out of the inning; however, the ball was ruled to have hit the ground prior to Everett making the snag. Both baserunners scored on the play, knotting the game at 5-5.
ETSU head coach Brad Irwin then entered the playing field, vehemently making his appeal to the umpire crew. To Irwin's chagrin, the play was confirmed a hit, and the Bucs' entered the bottom of the sixth deadlocked at 5-5.
Following Irwin's on-field dispute, a suddenly rejuvenated ETSU team placed its first two batters of the inning on base, with Casey Horner (Whitesburg, Tenn.) singling up the middle before speedster Nicole Fox (Peachtree City, Ga.) laid down a near-perfect bunt single.
Freshman Kelsey Chernak (Ooltewah, Tenn.) advanced both runners with a sacrifice bunt, bringing the Buccaneers' powerful middle-of-the-lineup to the plate with one out, seniors Katie Wolff (La Grange, Texas) and Baird.
Wolff, who leads ETSU with a .375 batting average, flew out to shallow left field, forcing Horner to hold on third base.
With a season-best crowd cheering her on, Baird belted a 2-0 pitch through the left side, allowing Horner to score the go-ahead run. Fox was thrown out at the plate on a bang-bang play for the inning's third out.
Wolff then retired UNF's last three outs in order, striking out Ashia Kerr, swinging, to clinch the 6-5 victory for ETSU and bring the home crowd to its feet.
The Bucs scored five runs within the game's first three innings, as their first five batters reached base safely to start the game.
In the day's opening game, ETSU suffered a 7-1 setback.
The Bucs will host the Ospreys in a rubber game Sunday, April 13 at 1:00 p.m. Live stats for the game can be viewed by clicking here.
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