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Kelly Hodge

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Bucs' Harris going through emotional ordeal

February 26th, 2014 7:03 pm by Kelly Hodge

Bucs' Harris going through emotional ordeal

East Tennessee State basketball coach Murry Bartow went to Nashville on Wednesday to represent the team at the funeral of Hunter Harris’s father.

The senior forward found out at halftime of the North Florida game in Jacksonville last Saturday night that his father had died. He decided to play on and scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half of an 88-85 victory.

“I’ve been a head coach a long time and never been involved in anything like that,” Bartow said before leaving town Wednesday morning. “Before the game, Hunter received a text that his dad wasn’t doing great. We came in at halftime and he checked his phone and saw that his dad had passed away.

“That changed the dynamics of everything going on. It was a very difficult, emotional halftime, and I know it meant a lot to the staff and his team that he decided to play. I encouraged him to think about not playing, but he went out and played well.”

Bartow was clearly emotional after the victory. Harris is one of his four seniors, a mild-mannered 25-year-old with a daughter of his own. 

“He’s a neat kid,” said the coach, “really gentle and down to earth.”

Harris will be back on campus late tonight and join the Bucs for their trip to USC Upstate on Friday. Third place in the Atlantic Sun Conference is on the line.

“It’s tough, but he’s handling it well,” said Kinard Gadsden-Gilliard, Harris’s roommate. “We try to be good brothers and give him his space.”

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The Bucs know Friday night’s game in Spartanburg is for third place, which secures a tournament quarterfinal at home. But they could already have that sewed up after tonight’s Florida Gulf Coast-Lipscomb game in Nashville.

Lipscomb is the only team that could conceivably knock the Bucs out of hosting. It has to beat the Eagles, who are currently tied for first, and then Stetson on Saturday.

The Bison would finish at 10-8 in the conference and win the tiebreaker for the No. 4 seed with the Bucs, should they lose at Upstate.

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The baseball team picked up some momentum at the Tiger Classic in Auburn, Ala., last weekend.

After being shut out 3-0 by Cal, the Bucs defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff 7-3 and then Auburn 3-2 in 10 innings.

They ran their win streak to three games Tuesday at home with an 11-6 victory over UNC-Asheville.

“We’re really pitching the ball well right now and playing pretty good defense,” coach Tony Skole said Wednesday. “The way the college game is going, it’s tilted toward success for pitchers and defense, and I’m fine with that.”

Skole is asking a lot of Clinton Freeman this season. The senior from Jonesborough has moved from first base to left field, and he’s also the Friday night starter on the mound.

So far, Freeman, a preseason All-American, has been more productive at the plate, batting a team-best .375 with nine runs batted in. The left-hander is 0-2 as a pitcher with a 4.26 ERA.

“What we’re asking him to do — be the Friday night starter and hit in the 3-hole — only three guys I can remember were asked to do,” said Skole. “That was Todd Helton, Mark Kotsay and Tim Hudson. You just don’t see those guys very often.”

Skole said Jimmy Nesselt (1-0, 3.21 ERA) has performed well in the starting rotation, but he’s still looking for another dependable starter.

“Our bullpen has been phenomenal,” he said. “We’ve got four guys who haven’t given up an earned run in 22 innings. They’ve been the glue, and if we can get the ball to them late, we’ve got a good chance of winning.”

The Bucs (5-3) will host Canisius for a three-game series this weekend. Single games are set for Friday (3:05), Saturday (1:05) and Sunday (1:05).

The Golden Griffins of Buffalo, N.Y., were an NCAA tournament team a year ago, as were the Bucs, who won their first Atlantic Sun Conference championship.

“We always set the schedule up with big names from BCS schools, but more football names than baseball,” said Skole. “We’ve tried to get some NCAA tournament teams on the schedule this year to help with RPI. Canisius may not be a household name, but they’re a very good baseball team.”

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The Buccaneer Classic was just the ticket for the ETSU softball team.

Playing on home soil for the first time this season, the Bucs rolled over Oakland and Siena twice each last weekend at Basler Field, outscored them 25-4 in the four games.

The Bucs are now 7-5 as they head into a three-game weekend series here against Morehead State. That’s their best start since 2010.

“Sweeping two days in a row is big,” said coach Brad Irwin. “We’ve been splitting a lot of double-headers. I’m really proud of the girls.”

Freshman Taylor Carter improved to 5-1 in the circle, with a 1.56 ERA. Catcher Jackie Baird is carrying the big bat, hitting .344 with seven home runs and 15 RBI.

The Bucs play a double-header with Morehead State on Saturday, with games at 1 and 3. Sunday’s game is set for 1 o’clock.

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