The East Tennessee State baseball team had a performance Friday night which could be titled “Flat and Scruggs.”
Matthew Scruggs had a pair of home runs for the Bucs, but the rest of the team’s bats fell flat in a 6-4 loss to USC Upstate at Thomas Stadium.
Scruggs hit a two-run homer in the first inning to give the Bucs a 3-2 lead and scored their final run on a solo shot in the eight inning. Those were the senior center fielder’s 13th and 14th home runs of the season.
Other than his efforts, however, the Bucs failed to get another extra-base hit against the Spartans.
Dropping the opening game of a three-game series, ETSU fell to 16-16 overall and 4-9 in the Atlantic Sun Conference. Upstate improved to 23-12, 8-5.
“I was a little frustrated, obviously, with our offense,” ETSU head coach Tony Skole said. “We didn’t get a lot of good swings off. There just weren’t a lot of competitive at-bats. We had opportunities, but we’re a ballclub when we have opportunities, we have to make the most of them.”
The Bucs did that in the opening stages.
Down 2-0 in the bottom of the first, Clinton Freeman gave them early hope with an RBI single to score Chris Riopedre. Scruggs then followed with his homer and ETSU took a 3-2 lead.
It held up for an inning before Jordan Stampler tied the game for Upstate with a solo shot which barely stayed fair in left field. Austin Liput then scored on a passed ball for a 4-3 Upstate lead.
The Spartans added two more runs in the sixth on a RBI triple by Liput, followed by an RBI double by Luke Weber. Those were the only runs scored until Scruggs connected on his solo home run in the eighth for the game’s final score. He ended 2-for-3 at the plate with three RBIs.
“It was a rough night for us, and I was just trying to put together some big hits,” Scruggs said. “I’ve been working hard with coach Skole trying to get my swing back. I was trying to be quiet at the plate, and just focus.”
Upstate and the Bucs each ended with seven hits, but the difference was that four of the Spartans’ hits went for extra bases.
Liput led the way, going 3-for-4 with three RBIs and three runs scored.
John Long, the Bucs’ senior pitcher who hails from the Upstate region of South Carolina, suffered the loss despite going the distance. He fell to 5-4 on a night when he struck out six and gave up only two walks over nine innings.
“I thought John Long pitched very well,” Skole said. “The six runs he gave up weren’t really indicitive of his performance. He made a couple of bad pitches, gave up a couple of home runs, but he really pitched well enough to give us an opportunity to win tonight. We’re just really sporadic offensively right now, and that’s frustrating to sit and watch.”
Upstate starter David Roseboom (6-1) was credited with the win after giving up four runs over seven innings. Andrew Wyant and Chad Sobotka each pitched a hitless inning of relief.
Besides Scruggs, Kerry Doane was the only other Buc with multiple hits, going 2-for-4 on a pair of singles.
ETSU, which was coming off a 4-3 win over Tennessee on Wednesday, is scheduled to play Upstate in the second game of the series today at 2:05 p.m.