A two-year layoff didn’t put any rust on Tony Skole’s Tennessee mojo Wednesday night.
The East Tennessee State coach watched closer-shortstop Kerry Doane pitch 62â„3 strong innings to help Skole get his fifth straight win in the series — a 4-3 victory on a cold, breezy night at Thomas Stadium.
The Buccanneers improved to 16-15 on the season. Tennessee fell to 20-13.
Doane, a 5-foot-10 junior right-hander, allowed two runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out seven.
“He was phenomenal; I mean, just really set the tone,” Skole said. “He’s our everyday shortstop and has been pitching at the end of ballgames for us all year. But when you play two games in the mid-week and then have a conference weekend, you’ve gotta try to find somebody to eat some innings up.
“And he’s just such a great competitor and a great leader for us. ... He’s got a great ability to locate the baseball.”
Hard-throwing sophomore right-hander Jake Long entered with two outs and the bases loaded in the seventh, and allowed one run in 21â„3 innings for his first save.
ETSU — with assistance from the Vols — manufactured a run for the Bucs in each of the first two innings. Leadoff man Derek Niesman scored in the first inning after singling, going to second on a wild pitch and getting to third on Cory Betterson’s two-strike groundout to the right side. Clinton Freeman scored Niesman with a groundout to second.
ETSU took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second. Andrew Green led off reaching when he was hit by a pitch, stole second and advanced to third on a pickoff throw into center field. Dylan Pratt doubled him in when he concluded a nine-pitch at-bat by hitting a one-hopper off the fence in left-center field.
“They took advantage of our miscues,” Tennessee coach Dave Serrano said. “We throw a ball away to center field on a pick to second base; a passed ball that led to the guy getting to second base, and all they’ve gotta do is hit a ground ball to score their first run. Little things like that in a one-run game — when you’re having a tough time scoring runs — those things are magnified.
“I didn’t think we took very good at-bats tonight. You’ve gotta give credit where credit is due. Their starting pitcher had gone 16 innings all year. He goes a career-high seven innings in one game and keeps us at bay.”
Pratt hit an opposite-field, wind-aided home run in the right field corner to give the Bucs a 3-1 lead in the fourth.
“I couldn’t believe that ball actually got out,” Pratt said. “I barreled it, but I mean I was watching the right fielder and I was thinking he was coming in on it. When the umpire started signaling it was a home run I almost didn’t know what to do. I about stopped at second base. I’ll take them any way I can get them.
“I put a good swing on that one (to left center). I had a pretty good at-bat going and saw a lot of pitches. Actually, I thought that one might get out.”
Green’s single scored Freeman to give the Bucs a 4-2 lead in the fifth.
The Vols’ Chris Fritts drew a leadoff walk in the eighth and scored on Zach Osborne’s bases-loaded fly-out to right field. But Long stranded the tying run at third base by striking out leadoff batter Will Maddux looking at a fastball away. Maddox finished 3-for-5 with two runs.
Long retired the side in order in the ninth.
Pratt finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
ETSU entered having lost six of seven.
“It was a big win for us,” Skole said. “We need to use this to propel us into this weekend and hopefully gain some momentum from it.”
ETSU opens a three-game home series against USC Upstate on Friday at 7 p.m. Tennessee begins a three-game series at home against Florida on Friday.
UT will host the Bucs on Tuesday.