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Richardson's walk-off lifts Bucs over Rockets

Jeff Birchfield • Updated Feb 16, 2020 at 7:21 PM

East Tennessee State catcher Kyle Richardson knew the fastball was coming. He was literally waiting to knock it out of the park.

Richardson belted a three-run, walk-off home run as the Bucs scored five runs in the final inning to rally for a 9-7 win over Toledo on Sunday at Thomas Stadium.

It gave the Bucs (3-0) a series sweep on opening weekend and put a broad smile across Richardson’s face he still displayed minutes later.

“This one takes the cake. It’s not my only walk-off home run, but it’s definitely my best one,” Richardson said about his shot over left-center field. “As I was walking up to the plate, Coach (Joe) Pennucci said, ‘Kyle, you know a good, old-fashioned heater is coming.’

“He put it low and in, right in my wheelhouse where I like it. I just turned and as soon as I swung, I knew it went out.”

Ben Jackson put the Bucs in position at the previous at-bat with a two-run single. Jackson, who hit a two-run home run in the first inning, finished 3-for-4 with four RBIs and two runs scored.

“I was thinking when I walked up to the plate that nothing changed for me whether it was the bottom of the ninth or the first inning,” Jackson said. “All I’m trying to do is hit the ball hard and help my team win. We got the job done. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked.”

The Bucs had 13 hits overall, two each from Noah Hill, Jackson Greer and Richardson. To Jackson’s point, it wasn’t a thing of beauty for the Bucs in the middle innings when they lost the lead.

Pennucci felt great afterward after the Bucs had to scrap and claw to come up with the win after blowing out Toledo 15-1 the previous day.

“I was proud of how we didn’t stop fighting. In the beginning they punched us and we punched them back,” Pennucci said. “We went flat for a little bit. We went behind, and even if Kyle had hit into a double play there, I was still proud because we never stopped competing and we didn’t roll over. It was just one great at-bat after another and it couldn’t get more exciting than that.”

BUCS’ BIG RESPONSE

After Toledo scored one run in the top of the first, the Bucs responded with four runs in the bottom frame.

Hill, in the lead-off spot, doubled to deep left center field, followed by RBI doubles down the left field line by Greer and Jake Madole.

Jackson put an exclamation point with a two-run home run to left center field. A diving catch by Toledo center fielder Danny O’Reilly ended the inning by robbing the Bucs’ Ashton King of another extra-base hit.

ROCKETS SHOOT AHEAD

Toledo scored two runs in the third inning and one in the fourth to tie the game at 4-4.

The Rockets took the lead on an RBI single by Darryn Davis in the seventh inning. It was the third time Davis came through for Toledo. He had RBI ground outs in the first and third innings. Davis finished off the big day with a two-run triple down the first base line in the ninth to finish with five RBIs. Chris Meyers went 3-for-4 for Toledo.

ON THE BIG MOUND

Starting pitcher Hunter Loyd went 2 1/3 innings before being replaced by Landon Smitty, who gave up two runs over the next 4 1/3 innings. Daulton Montagna went 1 2/3 inning before Walker Joyce (1-0) got the win by facing the final two batters.

Jordan Power and Nate Haugh each went four innings for Toledo. Meyers, who started the game at first base, was tagged for the loss after giving up four hits and five runs in the final inning.

Overall, the Bucs had three singles and earned a walk before Richardson’s game-winning shot.

“That last inning was just exciting,” Pennucci said. “You get one guy up, he passes it on and the next guy passes it on. More than anything, I’m glad they did not stop playing. They continued to compete and play hard and the energy in the dugout was great. A win like that can carry you through a season.”

NEXT UP

ETSU heads to Virginia Tech on Tuesday with an opening pitch scheduled for 4 p.m. The Bucs return home for a three-game series against Rider starting Friday.

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