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Bucs pin hopes on pitching staff at SoCon tourney

Joe Avento • May 21, 2019 at 5:12 PM

It’s pretty apparent that the East Tennessee State baseball team will go as far as its pitching staff will take it in this week’s Southern Conference tournament.

The Bucs, who open against UNC Greensboro on Wednesday at 4 p.m., enter the tournament with the SoCon’s top ERA at 3.42. That ranks 10th nationally and ETSU is hoping it’s good enough for a deep postseason run.

The tournament is being played at Fluor Field in Greenville, South Carolina, home of the Class A Greenville Drive. The Bucs are looking for their first SoCon tournament championship. They won the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament in 2013.

Much of ETSU’s hope centers around three talented starters. Micah Kaczor comes in 6-2 with a 1.94 ERA. He’s followed by Science Hill alums Landon Knack (9-3, 2.73 ERA) and Daniel Sweeney (6-3, 3.21). They all rank in the top seven in the SoCon in ERA.

ETSU is 32-19 overall and is the sixth seed. UNCG, the third seed, is 33-17. The Spartans swept the Bucs in a three-game series earlier this month, winning 7-4, 4-2 and 5-4.

The Bucs have lost the only tournament game they’ve played against UNCG.

Offensively, the Bucs are led by junior catcher Jackson Greer, who is hitting .332 with nine home runs and 40 RBIs. Cullen Smith is hitting .321. Those two all-conference picks are the only ETSU players hitting over .300. The Bucs are hitting .279 as a team.

UNCG is led by Greg Hardison, who comes in hitting .351. Caleb Webster is hitting .322. The Spartans’ overall batting average is .290, second in the league.

Greensboro closer Chad Sykes has been a lock this season, saving 11 games and posting an ERA of 0.87.

Western Carolina opened the tournament with a 7-3 win over The Citadel in a play-in game on Tuesday.

The rest of the opening round has top-seeded Samford taking on Western Carolina at 9 a.m. No. 4 Mercer faces No. 5 Furman at 12:30 p.m., while No 2 Wofford and No.7 VMI meet at 7 p.m.

The double-elimination tournament runs until Sunday and the champion earns the SoCon’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

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SoCon tournament

At Fluor Field

Greenville, S.C.

Tuesday

Game 1: #8 Western Carolina 7, #9 The Citadel 3

Wednesday

Game 2: Western Carolina vs. #1 Samford, 9 a.m.;
 Game 3: #4 Mercer vs. #5 Furman, 12:30 p.m.;
 Game 4: #3 UNCG vs. #6 ETSU, 4 p.m.
; Game 5: #2 Wofford vs. #7 VMI, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday

Game 6: Loser Game 2 vs. Loser Game 3, 9 a.m.; 
Game 7: Loser Game 4 vs. Loser Game 5, 12:30 p.m.; 
Game 8: Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 3, 4 p.m.
; Game 9: Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5, 7:30 p.m.

Friday

Game 10: Winner Game 7 vs. Loser Game 8, 3:30 p.m.; 
Game 11: Winner Game 6 vs. Loser Game 9, 7 p.m.

Saturday


Game 12: Winner Game 8 vs. Winner Game 9, noon
Game 13: Winner Game 10 vs. Winner Game 11, 3:30 p.m.
; Game 14: Winner Game 13 vs. Loser Game 12, 7 p.m.

Sunday

Game 15: Winner Game 12 vs. Winner Game 14, noon
; Game 16 if necessary: Winner Game 15 vs. Loser Game 15, 40 minutes after Game 15

 

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