Friday, February 17, 2012
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – Senior John Long pitched six strong innings and the Bucs got timely hitting as they raised the curtain on brand new Thomas Stadium and the 2012 season with an 8-3 win over Eastern Kentucky on Friday afternoon.
Long (1-0) earned the victory as he gave up just four hits and two runs in his six innings of work, while striking out seven and allowing just one walk. Long was supported by a Buccaneer offense that totaled seven hits and eight runs on the afternoon.
Senior Matthew Scruggs (Knoxville, Tenn.) and sophomore Clinton Freeman were each 2-for-4 on the day, highlighted by Scruggs’ two-run homer in the fourth and Freeman’s two-run single in the third. Kerry Doane had a hit and two RBI, while sophomore Zach Waters was 1-for-4 with an RBI.
Meanwhile, junior Derek Bushey was strong in relief of Long as he pitched two scoreless innings without allowing a hit and striking out three.
EKU threatened in the second inning as Bryan Soloman got the first hit of the game with a double to right field to start the inning. Long hit the next batter to put runners on first and second with no outs. However, Long struck out Austin Grisham, Michael Garcia and Sean Hagen to end the threat.
The Bucs got runners on in the bottom half of the second as Dylan Pratt and Derek Niesman both walked. Then, with two outs, catcher Zach Waters (Woodstock, Ga.) picked up the first ETSU hit inside Thomas Stadium, while also driving in the first run inside the new digs as Pratt scored on the lined shot to left field.
Much like the second inning, ETSU opened the third inning with a pair of walks. After Kerry Doane laid down a beautiful sacrifice bunt to put both runners in scoring position, sophomore Clinton Freeman (Jonesborough, Tenn.) roped a two-run single to left field to put the Bucs up 3-0. The Bucs chased EKU starting pitcher Chase Greene (0-1) out of the game after Alex Reynolds picked up a base hit and Niesman walked to extend the inning.
Eastern Kentucky answered in the fourth as Grisham put the Colonels on the scoreboard with an RBI single to left center, scoring Soloman, who roped a one-out double down the left field line.
Once again, the Bucs led off an inning with a walk as Betterson reached in the bottom of the fourth. The Bucs made the Colonels pay once again as senior Matthew Scruggs (Knoxville, Tenn.) hit the first home run at the new park – a two-run lined shot over the left field wall – to put the Bucs up 5-1.
The score remained 5-1 until Shaun Ball blasted a two-strike solo home run to right field off of Long to inch the Colonels a run closer.
ETSU added its final three runs of the afternoon in the sixth inning. Cory Bettersonand Andrew Green reach base to start the inning after being hit by pitches. Both runners advanced a base following a wild pitch. After an infield single by Scruggs, Betterson scampered home on another wild pitch by relief pitcher Lincoln Wagner. With runners at second and third, Doane ripped two-run single to left field to score Andrew Green (Powell, Tenn.) and Scruggs, to put the Bucs up 8-2.
The score remained the same until Garcia hit a home run with two outs in the ninth off relief pitcher Jimmy Nesselt to make the final score 8-3. Nesselt struck out Hagen to close out the contest.
The three-game series will continue tomorrow as the Bucs and Colonels will play a doubleheader starting at 11:05 a.m. due to the threat of bad weather on Sunday. ETSU will send Freeman to the mound in game one and Jake Long (Anderson, S.C.) will get the ball for game two.