Bucs fend off Western Carolina in ninth for 5-4 win

Johnson City Press • Updated Mar 23, 2019 at 6:40 PM

Two games with Western Carolina. Two tight-fisted wins.

A day after charging from behind to win a one-run game with the Catamounts, East Tennessee State withstood Western’s ninth-inning rally to edge Western 5-4 in Saturday’s Southern Conference baseball play at Thomas Stadium.

ETSU (16-5, 2-0 SoCon) and Western (10-10, 0-2) close their three-game set on Sunday, when action begins at 1 p.m.

Junior Landon Knack upped his record to 5-0 on Saturday, yielding just one run on five hits in his 7 2/3 innings of work. He authored six strikeouts against one walk.

With the four-run gap and Knack out of the game, the Catamounts made one final push to even the series. With two outs and runners on the corners in the ninth, Western tagged back-to-back singles to pull within two at 5-3. Another run would come home from second on an infield single after a stray throw allowed him to advance.

However, for the second game in a row, sophomore Matthew Mercer came along to protect a tight lead, stranding the tying runner in scoring position with a clutch strikeout.

Only one run was produced by either team in the first six innings. Carrying over last night’s momentum from his go-ahead triple that won the series opener, freshman Ethan Shelton got the crowd involved with a leadoff homer in the third inning.

The 1-0 lead stood all the way through the seventh inning until Western Carolina finally got something done against Knack with a Justice Bigbie solo homer.

Coming out of the seventh-inning stretch, the Bucs posted a four-run frame. Sparked by a bases-loaded situation with one out, Shelton chopped an infield groundout down the first-base line to score pinch runner Quinn Buffington and break the short-lived tie.

The next two at-bats came from the top of the order, resulting in three runs. Jake Lyle and Cullen Smith each smacked doubles, with Lyle bringing home a pair before Smith brought him in from second.

Lyle led the offense with a pair of doubles, finishing 2 for 4. He and Shelton each had two RBIs while Jackson Greer batted 1 for 2 with two walks.

Filling the top three spots in the Cats’ order, Daylan Nanney, Matthew Koehler and Bigbie each totaled two hits. One of Nanney’s hits went for a double.

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