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Greer blasts Bucs to dramatic season-opening victory

Joe Avento • Feb 15, 2019 at 5:02 PM

Jackson Greer saved his best for last, and he saved the day for the East Tennessee State baseball team.

Greer’s two-run home run in the eighth inning propelled ETSU to a 4-3 season-opening victory over Iona on Friday at Thomas Stadium.

Shortly after Iona went ahead 3-2 with three runs in the top of the eighth, Greer got all of a 1-2 pitch from Gaels reliever Antonio Velardi. The ball sailed high and far, slamming off of Greer’s name high on the scoreboard in left field. Cullen Smith, who started the winning rally with a solid single up the middle, scored ahead of him.

“It felt great,” Greer said. “It was one of them ‘no-doubters.’ It was a good feeling. It was a good team win.”

James Giambalvo worked a perfect ninth inning for the save.

Greer, ETSU’s catcher, also threw out both of Iona’s attempted base-stealers.

“He’s a good defensive guy and he does have some power,” ETSU coach Joe Pennucci said.

ETSU starter Micah Kaczor worked five shutout innings, allowing three hits. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out four. Kaczor left with a 1-0 lead, but didn’t figure into the decision when Iona rallied to take the lead against the Bucs’ young bullpen.

The Gaels changed their fortunes in the eighth inning when they were trailing 2-0. With Joseph Acosta coming on as the Bucs’ fourth pitcher, Iona’s Joe DeMaio drew the dreaded leadoff walk. One out later, Fran Kinsey belted a double to right-center field, scoring DeMaio.

With runners on first and second, freshman lefty Colby Stuart came on in relief and hit the first batter he faced, Sam Punzi. That left the bases loaded with one out.

Jake Field followed with a sharp two-run single to left field and a 3-2 Iona lead.

Moments later, Greer’s home run allowed Stuart to earn his first collegiate win.

“I think the biggest thing is these guys know they have to count on the guy next to them, the guy behind them,” Pennucci said. “And that’s what they did.”

Jake Lyle led ETSU’s 10-hit attack by going 3 for 4. Smith and Greer both had two hits.

ONE RUN, NO HITS

The Bucs scored first, and the run came in an inning in which they didn’t get a hit.

Ethan Cady drew a one-out walk in the fourth inning and stole second. One out later, Cady took off for third and while he slid into the bag, the throw from Punzi, Iona’s catcher, rolled into left field. That allowed Cady to score the first run of the season.

The Bucs doubled their lead to 2-0 in the seventh when Noah Hill led off with a double, advanced to third on a bunt single by Ethan Shelton and scored on a single down the right-field line by Cade Gilbert.

KEEPING IT SCORELESS

Michael Gorman led off the third inning for Iona with a triple, but the Gaels didn’t score thanks to some fine pitching and defense by the Bucs.

First, Kaczor struck out DeMaio with a nasty off-speed pitch. Jon Budesa then hit a chopper to third and Lyle, ETSU third baseman, grabbed the ball and threw out Gorman at the plate. Greer then threw out Budesia trying to steal second base to end the inning.

IONA STARTER

Stephen Hansen, the Gaels’ starter, allowed one earned run in seven innings. He gave up eight hits.

UP NEXT

The two teams are scheduled to play again Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1. Those game times could be changed, depending on the weather.

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