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Sweeney leads ETSU sweep of Western Carolina

Jeff Birchfield • Updated Mar 24, 2019 at 6:20 PM

East Tennessee State started off the Southern Conference baseball season in style.

The Bucs defeated Western Carolina 10-3 on Sunday at Thomas Stadium to earn a three-game weekend sweep. Senior pitcher Daniel Sweeney, a former Science Hill High School standout, had six solid innings and plenty of run support from his teammates as ETSU (17-5) improved to 15-1 at home.

“We did a good job on the mound and were able to score runs and add to it,” ETSU coach Joe Pennucci said. “Sometimes, Sundays can be tough, but we did a really good job. Baseball can be a long season with four or five games a week. We talked about how there are conference games that last all the way through the season and these early games are just as important as the late games.”

Sweeney, a 6-foot-5 right-hander, earned the win, striking out seven and giving up six hits, two walks and two runs over six innings. Hooper Mills, Trey Oglesby and Nathaniel Tate each threw an inning of relief.

“I threw a lot of sliders,” said Sweeney (4-0). “We had worked a lot of innings with the fastball all weekend and we knew they would be ready for that. We didn’t go completely away from that, but a lot of sliders, off-speed and the change-up was good for me.”

Joe Vranesic (1-1) suffered the loss for the Catamounts (10-11), allowing seven hits and four runs over three innings.

EARLY SCORING

After getting on the scoreboard in the second inning on Ethan Shelton’s RBI single to score Cade Gilbert, the Bucs left three stranded on base. It wasn’t the case the next inning, as Noah Hill hit a three-run home run to score Ethan Cady and Jackson Greer for a 4-0 lead.

The Catamounts responded with two runs in the fourth inning, but ETSU responded in the bottom frame with four more runs, highlighted by Hill getting two more RBIs with Cady and Greer scoring again.

“I was just trying to get a pitch up I could drive well and get on base,” Hill said. “That was a blessing to get it up and get it out of here. We got on base when we needed to and today we got them in. That was what it was all about. We kept grinding it out and working to give (scoring) opportunities back to each other.”

Cady went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and three runs scored. Greer hit 2-for-3 and scored two runs. Shelton was 3-for-4 with a RBI and a run scored. He also made a leaping catch at the left field fence for the game’s final out.

TOPPER STRONG

Sweeney and his former Science Hill teammate Landon Knack have both gotten off to strong starts. They have been the winning pitchers in nine of the Bucs’ 17 wins so far.

“We have three seniors, all pitchers, and then a juco transfer in Landon Knack,” Sweeney said. “We’re all just trying to come out and lead the team. It’s on us to get a good start every game. We’ve been able to do that so far. Although when we score 10 runs a game, that helps a lot.”

NEXT UP

ETSU will play at Tennessee on Tuesday at 6 p.m. The Vols defeated the Bucs 5-1 last Tuesday in Johnson City. The next home game is Wednesday at 6 p.m., when ETSU hosts UNC Asheville.

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