Former Daniel Boone player Kevin Connell started for the Citadel. He gave up three runs on four hits in two innings. (Photos by Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
The East Tennessee State baseball team tied a 16-year-old school with four triples in a game and for the first time in a decade coach Tony Skole celebrated a home win against his alma mater.
Skole’s Bucs defeated The Citadel 12-4 Wednesday night at Thomas Stadium. It was the Bucs’ first win over the Bulldogs since Feb. 2007 and The Citadel’s first visit to Johnson City since the 2004 season.
The game held extra meaning to Skole, a 1991 graduate of The Citadel. His team improved to 15-17 in their return home after losing four of five on a recent road swing. The Bulldogs fell to 13-21.
“The Citadel will always be a special place to me and coach (Fred) Jordan is a mentor, like a father or older brother to me,” Skole said. “I owe a lot to him and to get to beat them... They have such an outstanding tradition with baseball there so we got lucky tonight. We didn’t outcoach them, we just outplayed them.”
The Bucs certainly outplayed them at the plate, knocking around a season-high 17 hits, nine of them for extra bases. The four triples, the final one by Tyler Roach in the seventh inning, tied a school record set on March 31, 1998 against Radford.
“We came off a performance this past weekend where we weren’t very good offensively,” Skole said. “But we had a great day of practice yesterday and made some adjustments. Tonight, our guys saw the ball well and got some great swings off.”
Dylan Tritsch and Roach led the way for the prolific ETSU offense. Tritsch went 3-for-5 with four runs scored including a solo home run in the eighth-inning . It was the 19th consecutive game which Tritsch has reached base.
“I hit a double off the wall and the home run hit the same spot, except it was a couple of feet higher,” Tritsch said. “I didn’t know I had that going until coach told me. That’s my number one goal to get on base any way I can. If I’m hit by a pitch, reach on an error, I don’t care. But a night like tonight, to get those run stats, that’s awesome.”
Roach finished 3-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. In addition, Kevin Phillips ended 2-for-5 night with three RBIs, and Gage Downey was 2-for-5 with two RBIs. Lead-off batter Jeremy Taylor and Trey York also had two hits.
While the Bucs and their coach celebrated, the result wasn’t what Citadel starting pitcher Kevin Connell envisioned.
Connell, a junior southpaw and former Daniel Boone High School standout, gave up three runs and four hits in just two innings before giving way to Brett Tompkins. Still, Connell was excited about playing in front of friends and family.
“To be back home in front of the home crowd, it felt great,” Connell said. “The facility is the best I’ve ever seen and the support was awesome. To be back in Johnson City, it felt good.”
After falling behind 4-0 in the top of the first, the Bucs cut into the deficit with Chris Riopedre’s two-run home run over left field. After Tritsch reached base with a single, Roach followed with a RBI single for a 4-3 score after one inning.
ETSU strung together three consecutive extra-base hits off Tompkins in the fourth inning to take a 5-4 lead. York and Phillips had triples, followed by Downey’s RBI double, batting in the nine-hole.
The Bucs, who gave up just four hits after the first inning, used five different pitchers over the first five innings and eight pitchers overall. Reliever Jimmy Nesselt hit a milestone in the fifth inning with his 100th career strikeout, while the Bucs didn’t walk a batter for a second straight game.
Josh Jacques (2-3) picked up the win going just 1 1/3 innings.
In the sixth inning, Chris Cook added a third triple for the Bucs, which marked the first time ETSU hit three triples in a game since Feb. 2006 against Xavier. All-American Clinton Freeman delivered with the next at-bat, a RBI single to give ETSU a 7-4 lead at the end of six innings.
Roach’s RBI triple highlighted a three-run seventh inning, and Tritsch’s solo home run was a defining shot in the eighth.
Freeman then turned to a closer role and shut down the Bulldogs, who went three up and three down in the ninth. The Bucs return to action Friday night for the opener of a three-game home series against North Florida.