Longwood takes opener from Bucs

Joe Avento • Feb 16, 2014 at 8:23 PM

The East Tennessee State baseball team was forced to wait two extra days for Opening Day.It'll have to wait at least another one for its first victory.Longwood came back from a pair of two-run deficits to beat the Bucs 6-4 Sunday at Thomas Stadium in the season opener for both teams.The game had been postponed twice because of recent snowstorms."It's been a long weekend for us," ETSU coach Tony Skole said. "We've moved around a lot of snow. It's been trying in the aspect you think you're gonna play and then you're not. It's been a little difficult on our ballclub, but the last thing I'm gonna do is blame that. We were ready to play today."The game marked Clinton Freeman's debut as the No. 1 starter in ETSU's rotation. Freeman, also the team's top hitter a year ago, was tagged with the loss after allowing five runs on nine hits in 6 2/3 innings. He went 1 for 4 in a relatively quiet afternoon at the plate."Still trying to get used to it," Freeman said of his dual role. "You have to come in and sit down. It's probably more mental than anything, separating pitching from hitting."Longwood's Aaron Myers scattered nine hits over eight innings to earn the win with a 105-pitch outing. He struck out seven."Give Longwood a lot of credit," Skole said. "They came out and their young man pitched a heck of a ballgame."The Bucs, who led 2-0 and 4-2, had one last gasp in them in the ninth inning when they got two runners on against reliever Travis Burnette while trailing 6-4. ETSU pinch-hitter Kevin Phillips smoked a line drive, but Longwood shortstop Brandon Harvell made a leaping catch and doubled off Zach Thompson at second base to end the game."It's the first game and we learned a lot," Skole said. "The great thing about this game is we come out and play two tomorrow."The Lancers broke a 4-4 tie in the seventh inning when Colton Konvicka hit a ground ball to third. ETSU's Jordan Sanford made a high throw, and Konvicka and ETSU's first baseman Tyler Roach collided, allowing Harvell to score the go-ahead run. Alex Owens then doubled for a 6-4 Longwood lead.Chris Riopedre's two-run home run in the fourth inning put the Bucs up 4-2."It felt good," Riopedre said. "I just tried to put a good swing on the ball and help the team win."Riopedre went 3 for 4 with three RBIs. He also made a stellar play at shortstop when he backhanded a grounder deep in the hole and threw from his knees to get Scott Burkett at first base.Thompson had two hits and drove in the Bucs' other run with a double in the second inning.Longwood's Brandon Delk had a two-run homer off Freeman in the fourth."They capitalized on a couple of pitches I threw," Freeman said. "They played well."The two teams will play a doubleheader today at 1:05 p.m.

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