It was too early in the season to be a must-win game, but when the East Tennessee State baseball team was facing a doubleheader sweep against Stetson, the pressure was on.
Then Dylan Tritsch changed the Bucs' fortunes with one swing of the bat.
Tritsch's two-run single in the seventh inning gave ETSU a 4-3 victory over Stetson, allowing the Bucs to split an Atlantic Sun Conference doubleheader Saturday at Thomas Stadium.
Stetson turned a triple play while winning the opener, 5-3.
"I didn't say this to our guys after Game 1 today, but it really was a must-win," ETSU coach Tony Skole said. "I was very proud of our guys. We hung in there."
The Bucs were trailing 3-2 in the seventh when Tritsch ripped a line drive to right-center, scoring Kevin Phillips and Clinton Freeman.
"It's big for me because I've been struggling a little bit," Tritsch said. "I got the hit and it's a good feeling. Hopefully I can take that feeling to my next couple at-bats."
The Bucs took two of the three games against Stetson to open the A-Sun season 2-1 and improve to 10-12 overall.
Freeman pitched the eighth and ninth innings for his fourth save of the season.
"I think for this team right now, coming out of the pen helps us," said Freeman, who began the season as a starting pitcher.
The Hatters (8-15, 1-2) jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the Bucs could get anything going. In the fifth, Chris Riopedre's RBI double was followed by a run-scoring single from Freeman to make it 3-2.
Logan Rice (3-0) was the winning pitcher after working two innings. Rice and Freeman held the Hatters to one hit over the final four innings.
In the opener, ETSU had a 1-0 lead thanks to Phillips' two-out RBI single in the second inning and appeared about to threaten for more in the fourth when Stetson got out of a jam with a triple play.
Riopedre and Tyler Roach singled to start the bottom of the fourth. Zach Thomson then hit a liner to center field, but Stetson's Kevin Fagan made a diving catch, threw the ball into the infield and both runners were caught for a triple play.
"It was a missed sign," Skole said. "We were supposed to be bunting there. The kid made a great play. Our guys should have been tagging with no outs. It was a little bit of bone-headed base running and bone-headed as far as missing the sign."
Two innings later, Fagan tied it up with a run-scoring single and Garrett Russini gave the Hatters a 4-1 lead by belting a three-run home run over the left-center field wall.
Phillips made it 4-2 in the seventh with a solo home run to left, his first homer of the season.
Stetson's Tyler Bocock got that run back when his solo homer made it 5-2 in the eighth.
Tyler Roach drove in the Bucs' final run in the ninth with a groundout.
Riopedre had three of ETSU's eight hits in the opener.
Josh Powers (2-3) went eight innings for Stetson, giving up eight hits. ETSU's Jimmy Nesselt (2-2) was the losing pitcher despite getting a career-high eight strikeouts.
Phillips went 4 for 6 in the doubleheader.
ETSU returns to action Tuesday with a home game against Western Carolina.comments powered by Disqus