Junior pitcher Logan Rice gave up two solo home runs, but little else to lead East Tennessee State to a 7-2 victory over Lipscomb on Saturday afternoon at Thomas Stadium.
Rice, the former Unicoi County standout, was rocked with two shots over left field, but gave up only three other hits and one walk over six innings to improve to 4-1 on the season.
With its fifth straight Atlantic Sun Conference victory, ETSU improved to 20-12 overall and 9-5 in league play.
“I’m excited to get the win again,” Rice said. “Locating my fastball and change-up really helped me today. My breaking ball wasn’t working the way I wanted it to, and I’ve got to find that.
“But, it makes the game so much easier when your offense is on that day and scores some runs. Then your defense is playing behind you, that makes it a lot easier on the mound.”
Will Chesney came in relief with three scoreless innings for this first collegiate save. Of the junior right-hander’s 39 pitches, 30 were strikes.
“I thought (pitching) coach (Kyle) Bunn had a great game plan and Logan and Will Chesney were phenomenal in their execution,” ETSU head coach Tony Skole said. “Logan Rice is a warrior. He just goes after hitters and smothers the strike zone.
“You look at Will, and 30 of his 39 pitches were in the strike zone. That’s what Will Chesney does. When you do that, and you play good defense behind them, you have a good chance to win.”
Junior first baseman Clinton Freeman certainly added to the Bucs’ chances with his play at the plate. In the fifth inning, he sent a solo shot over the right field fence for his eighth home run of the season.
Freeman, who had a sacrifice fly for ETSU’s first run, ended the day 3-for-4 with three RBIs. Although his batting average has remained around .370, Freeman had been struggling with some of his power numbers.
“I have to give credit to my coaches for getting me back on track,” Freeman said. “Coach (Xan) Barksdale and I came out here about 9:30 and started working on some things. A lot of it had to do with my front foot, how I wasn’t getting my front foot down and how I was trying to do too much.
“When I was hitting the ball on that streak earlier in the season, I wasn’t trying to do too much. Sometimes, you try to think too much about what you’re doing instead of letting your ability take over.”
Freeman got the Bucs on the scoreboard with bases loaded in the third inning. He hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score Mason Hershey, and then Andrew Green doubled to score Jeremy Taylor. Andrew Lasure followed suit with a two-run single for a 4-0 Bucs advantage.
Lipscomb scored in the top of the fourth when Aaron Sandoval blasted a solo home run over the left field fence to end Rice’s streak of 15 2/3 innings without giving up an earned run.
Two innings later, Taylor Stewart hit a solo shot near the same spot for the Bisons’ second run. It wasn’t nearly enough for Lipscomb which fell to 12-24 and 3-8.
Their efforts were offset by Freeman’s solo home run in the fifth, followed by a bases-loaded walk by Hershey.
Hershey was especially productive in the nine-hole, going 3-for-3 at the plate and reaching base four times. Dylan Tristch ended 2-for-4 for the Bucs, who outhit the Bisons 13-7. Seven of the nine batters in ETSU’s starting lineup got at least one hit.
“I think the last two days we’ve been able to put some quality at-bats in succession,” Skole said. “It’s been fun to watch. We got some good swings off, put some pressure on the defense and have driven some runs in.
“I’m really proud of Mason Hershey. He’s an unsung hero for us right now. He’s playing at a high level, one of the best defensive catchers in the country. He’s providing outstanding leadership and doing great back there.”
Hunter Brothers (3-4) suffered the loss for the Bisons after giving up six runs, all of them earned, in four innings. Chad Shannon was the only Lipscomb player with multiple hits, 2-for-4 on the day.
The Bucs, who won 8-0 Friday night behind a complete-game effort by Kerry Doane, will go for the series sweep today. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m.