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ETSU stays alive, Cook breaks Bucs' hits record

Johnson City Press • Updated May 24, 2018 at 10:03 PM

GREENVILLE, S.C.—On a day that senior Chris Cook broke a major school record, East Tennessee State’s baseball team wasn’t ready to crack.

Coming off a tough loss from the previous night, the Buccaneers knocked off Furman 5-2 on Thursday in Southern Conference tournament losers’ bracket activity.

The outcome eliminated the Paladins (24-28) and pushed ETSU (28-24) into Friday’s 11 a.m. matchup with Western Carolina, which fell 15-0 to Mercer yesterday. After erasing a five-run deficit in the final two innings, the Bucs were beaten by Wofford 8-7 in 10 innings late Wednesday night. 

Cook became ETSU’s career hits leader with a first-inning single against Furman. His 308th career hit pushed him ahead of Paul Hoilman, who held the record for nearly seven years.

Fellow senior Ryan Simpler tossed a complete game for ETSU, allowing just two runs on 10 hits. Simpler, who came into the tournament as the reigning SoCon Pitcher of the Week, struck out four batters with no walks in the win.

After Furman crossed an early run in the opening frame, ETSU brought home a trio of scores in the third inning to gain the advantage. Three seniors — Cook, Christian Bailey and Aaron Maher — each produced two-out base knocks with runners in scoring position.

Simpler would hold that lead for the duration of the contest.

The Paladins added a fifth inning run to trim the deficit to 3-2. ETSU’s one-run advantage expanded in the eighth, courtesy of Cade Gilbert’s two-run double.

Cook, Bailey, Gilbert and Maher each had two hits to lead the Blue & Gold offensively. Maher joined Cook with a milestone of his own, as his first hit marked No. 250 in his career.

In the ninth, Simpler capped his complete-game outing with a play at the plate for the final out. With a runner on first, Furman’s Sims Griffith singled to left field. A momentary bobble by Ben Jackson prompted base runner Bret Huebner to round third on the single. Jackson threw to Gilbert, who cut off the throw and allowed catcher Jackson Greer to make the game-ending tag.

The victory marks the first time ETSU has defeated Furman in SoCon tournament play since rejoining the conference in 2015. The Paladins won the two previous meetings, including last year’s semifinal to eliminate ETSU and advance to the championship final.

Wednesday

Wofford 8, ETSU 7 (10 innings)

GREENVILLE, S.C.—A dropped ball at first base allowed the 10th inning to continue, then Andrew Orzel ripped an RBI double to end the contest.

The Bucs had scored three times in the eighth and twice more in the ninth to wipe out a 7-2 Wofford advantage.

Chris Cook had three of ETSU’s 11 hits, including a double, in his six at-bats. Jackson Greer (home run) and Cade Gilbert each went 2 for 4 with a pair of RBIs, with Greer adding two runs. Christian Bailey doubled in a 2-for-5 effort.

James Giambalvo absorbed the loss despite yielding only the game-ending run, which was unearned, over 2 2/3 innings. He registered five strikeouts with no walks.

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