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Bucs erase five-run deficit, edge Catamounts

Johnson City Press • Mar 22, 2019 at 10:53 PM

Coming through in come-from-behind fashion, East Tennessee State captured its Southern Conference baseball opener on Friday night with a 10-9 triumph over visiting Western Carolina.

Upping their record to 15-5, the Buccaneers matched their best 20-game start in program history. The win also moved ETSU to 13-1 at home.

Just when it seemed that ETSU might drop its second straight home game — the Catamounts led 8-3 in the sixth inning — the Bucs mounted a charge to steal the series opener.

Western was still up 9-5 heading to the bottom of the eighth, but ETSU kept at it. After loading the bases with one out, the Catamounts made a pitching change. A fielding error and a walk allowed everyone to move up a base twice, making it a 9-7 game.

From there, freshman Ethan Shelton produced the biggest hit of his young career, gapping a bases-loaded triple past a diving glove in left field.

ETSU carried the 10-9 lead into the ninth inning, allowing Matthew Mercer to enter and slam the door for his first career save. Mercer allowed one batter to reach on a two-out single, then promptly ended the game with a three-pitch strikeout.

ETSU’s first three runs came on a first-inning home run by Cade Gilbert, erasing a 2-0 deficit. The lone ETSU player with multiple hits, Gilbert finished 3 for 4 and scored twice.

Noah Hill accounted for a triple and two RBIs for the Bucs, who got doubles from Jackson Greer (2 runs) and Jake Lyle. Winner Zachary Kirby (1-1) pitched three innings in relief of starter Micah Kaczor, yielding three runs.

The Cats were paced by Luke Robinson at 4 for 5 with three RBIs while Justice Bigbie (3 RBIs, 2 runs) Matthew Koehler (3 runs) and Andrew Bullock (2 runs) generated two hits apiece.

Robinson and Koehler both doubled and tripled. Immanuel Wilder clubbed a solo home run in the fifth.

The three-game series at Thomas Stadium resumes on Saturday at 2 p.m.

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