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Late charge lifts Buccaneers over Furman

Johnson City Press • Updated May 24, 2019 at 11:24 PM

GREENVILLE, S.C.—Erasing a four-run deficit over the final three innings, East Tennessee State remained alive with a 7-5 victory over Furman on Friday night in the Southern Conference baseball tournament.

The Bucs meet Mercer at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, with the survivor playing Samford or Wofford in the losers’ bracket final set for 7.

Down 5-1 after the Paladins’ Jared Mihalik belted a two-run double in the sixth, the Bucs narrowed the gap over the next two innings — then capped their comeback with a three-run ninth.

In the Bucs’ ninth, Colby Emmertz and Cade Gilbert singled before Markell Graham was hit by a pitch, loading the bases with one out. From there, Cullen Smith put the ball in play, resulting in a fielding error at first base — allowing pinch-runner Ethan Cady and Gilbert to score and put ETSU ahead 6-5.

Following an intentional walk to Noah Hill, Jackson Greer picked up an RBI with a fielder’s choice.

The Paladins threatened in the bottom of the inning, getting base hits from Banks Griffith and David Webel. Matthew Mercer, after relieving Nathanial Tate with one away, surrendered the second of those hits, but put out the fire for his third save.

Tate worked 2 2/3 scoreless innings to improve to 4-0. Starter Daniel Sweeney yielded four runs — two were unearned — over five innings before Zachary Kirby retired two batters in the sixth, giving up a run.

Gilbert was the lone ETSU player with multiple hits, going 2 for 4 and scoring twice, and Smith contributed a pair of RBIs.

Furman also had one player with more than one hit as Webel went 2 for 4 with a double and two runs from the top of the lineup.

Both teams tallied seven hits.

ETSU didn’t produce its first run till the sixth, when Smith lofted a sacrifice fly. Ethan Shelton banged out an RBI double before a wild pitch enabled Emmertz to cross the plate in a two-run Bucs seventh.

Smith scored on an eighth-inning balk.

Allowing two earned runs, Paladins starter Mason Kenney struck out five batters over 6 1/3 innings. He left with a 5-3 lead, but Furman’s bullpen let it slip away.

Rob Hughes (5-2) was touched for three runs in his third of an inning from the mound. Only one run, however, was earned.

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