Trailing by seven runs through five innings, the ETSU baseball team mounted a rally that came up just a little short as USC Upstate hung on for a 9-7 victory in the series finale on Sunday at Thomas Stadium.
USC Upstate completed a series sweep to improve to 25-12 overall, 10-5 in league play. The Bucs fell to 16-18, 4-11 in the A-Sun leaving them last in the league’s standings.
The Spartans pounded out 13 hits, which included multi-hit efforts from Gaither Bumgardner, Austin Liput, Greg Guers and Tyler Cook. Guers and Trey Richardson each had two RBIs as well for Upstate.
ETSU got a three-hit game from Dylan Pratt for the second straight game. The Bucs also got a strong effort from another local product as Alex Reynolds was 1-for-4 with his first career home run and a career-high four RBI. Meanwhile, Zach Thompson had a multi-hit game as he finished 2-for-5 on the afternoon. Andrew Green, Kerry Doane and Matthew Scruggs each had a hit and an RBI. Scruggs belted his fourth homer of the weekend and 16th of the season.
USC Upstate junior Brandon Lee (5-3) picked up the win after allowing 10 hits and seven runs in 7 1/3 innings. Ben Augenstein earned his first save of the year after getting the final five outs of the game. ETSU starter Jake Long (2-4) was dealt the loss after allowing 11 hits and seven runs in five innings.
Upstate led 7-0 before ETSU got going. The Bucs got a lift in the sixth inning as Reynolds blasted a three-run home run to cut the lead to 7-3. With one-out, Pratt singled to center field and Thompson followed with an infield single. Both runners advanced into scoring position as the throw by the first baseman to the pitcher covering the bag was errant. Then, with two-outs in the inning, Reynolds belted the 0-1 pitch from Lee over the right field wall for his first career home run.
USC Upstate extended its lead with two more runs off just one hit in the seventh inning. After a walk, a double and a hit by pitch, Richardson drew a walk to score a run. The Spartans plated another run in the inning thanks to an ETSU error – making the score 9-3.
ETSU mounted a rally in the eighth after Scruggs led off the inning by launching his league-leading 16th home run of the season. Pratt, Thompson and Riopedre recorded three straight singles to load the bases with no outs. Reynolds recorded his fourth RBI of the day after grounding out to first. After Skyler Barnett walked to load the bases, the Spartans brought on Jordan Rusk out of the bullpen. Rusk hit Green with the 1-0 pitch, which plated another ETSU run to make the score 9-6. After another Upstate pitching change, Doane recorded his 100th career RBI with a sacrifice fly to deep left field to pull the Bucs within two at 9-7.
After Will Chesney sat down the Spartans in order in the ninth, the Bucs got a one-out single from Pratt in the bottom half of the inning, but they were unable to get anything else going.
ETSU will be back in action with a pair of road contests during the midweek. The Bucs will travel to Tennessee on Tuesday night before facing Radford on Wednesday.