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Western Carolina bumps ETSU from SoCon baseball tournament

Joe Avento • Updated May 25, 2018 at 8:39 PM

GREENVILLE, S.C. — Western Carolina’s five-run first inning spelled doom for the East Tennessee State baseball team.

The upstart Catamounts scored five times before the Bucs even came to bat and held off a late ETSU rally for an 11-8 victory in the Southern Conference tournament Friday at Fluor Field.

The loss ended the season for ETSU, which finished Joe Pennucci’s first year as coach with a 28-25 record.

Justin Sparks was 3 for 5 with four RBIs for the ninth-seeded Catamounts, who came into the tournament 7-45 and have beaten The Citadel, top-seeded UNCG and ETSU.

Western Carolina (10-46) will take on UNCG in an elimination game Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

Daniel Sweeney, ETSU’s starting pitcher, didn’t get through the first inning. He was credited with five runs, although only two were earned after a two-out error by Chris Cook kept the inning alive.

Sweeney gave up three hits and walked two batters in his brief appearance. Reliever Drew Korzybski allowed four runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings.

ETSU’s Cullen Smith hit a leadoff home run in the bottom of the first inning, but that was all the Bucs could muster until they were down 11-1.

One day after becoming ETSU’s all-time hit leader, Cook went 1 for 5 with an RBI double in the seventh inning. The senior from Kingsport finished his career with 310 hits, three more than Paul Hoilman had from 2008-11.

Hunter Parker added a run-scoring single before Cade Gilbert blasted a three-run home run for the Bucs in the four-run seventh that cut the deficit to 11-6.

Western Carolina’s Zach Franklin pitched seven innings and gave up two runs on five hits. When his bullpen came into the game, the Bucs scored six runs in the final two innings.

ETSU made it interesting in the bottom of the ninth, loading the bases with one out. Jackson Greer drew a walk to score one run and another scored on a fielding error to make it 11-8. With the bases still loaded, Caleb Longley struck out to end the game.

Aaron Maher, Jackson and Gilbert each had two of ETSU’s 12 hits.

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