Starting pitcher Landon Knack tied a career high with 11 strikeouts and the Bucs downed Toledo 6-2 Friday afternoon at Thomas Stadium.
Knack, a hometown product who attended Science Hill High School, faced 19 batters over five innings. The senior right hander gave up two hits and one walk, leaving the game after 77 pitches with ETSU (1-0) holding a 3-0 lead.
“Everything felt pretty good today. My fastball was getting by them and the slider was working to help me later to get through a jam,” Knack said. “Getting off to a good start gets you going for the season. Last year, we got off to a good start and were 20-5 at one point. I think coming out today and setting the tone, we can build on that.”
BUCS PULL AHEAD
Cade Gilbert hit a two-run single through the left side to score Jake Lyle and Ben Jackson in the third inning for a 2-0 Bucs lead. A throwing error led to Ethan Cady scoring in the fourth and a 3-0 advantage.
Jamie Meyers got the Rockets (0-1) on the board with a crushing shot that hit the edge of the center field scoreboard in the sixth inning.
BIG SHOT IN THE SEVENTH
Jake Madole, a graduate transfer from UNC Asheville, answered for ETSU in the seventh inning with a solo home run over left field. The Bucs weren’t done, tacking on a run with Cady’s sacrifice fly to score Gilbert. They scored an insurance run in the eighth.
ETSU’s bullpen held the Rockets in check.
Matt Mercer gave up the solo home run in the sixth, but that was the only hit he allowed over two innings. Nathanial Tate came in the eighth inning and went 1 1/3 innings, giving up a solo home run to Matt Kirk in the ninth inning. Daulton Montagna picked up the save after striking out the final two batters.
ETSU coach Joe Pennucci liked what he saw in the season opener.
“It all starts with the mound. Landon came out, threw strikes and competed as always,” Pennucci said. “The middle innings are often the tough ones, but Mercer did a good job. The beauty of baseball is picking everybody up. Nate came in, got an inning and Daulton did a good job of bailing him out.”
Gilbert went 3-for-4 with three RBIs to lead ETSU. Lead-off Noah Hill finished with two hits.
Layne Schnitz-Paxton suffered the loss for Toledo. He allowed four hits, four walks and gave up three runs over four innings, while also striking out four.
ETSU outhit Toledo 7-5 with the early runs providing the Bucs momentum.
“We did a pretty good job offensively of tacking on some runs,” Pennucci said. “Cade Gilbert’s two-run single was huge. We had a couple of two-out RBIs were huge and it was great to get on the board first.”
REST OF THE WEEKEND
The teams are scheduled to return to action Saturday at 2 p.m. and the series finale is set for Sunday at 1 p.m.