The Bucs lost 8-1 to Chattanooga in Sunday’s series final, putting somewhat of a damper on a day when four seniors — Tiffany Laughren, Taylor Wright, Vanessa Elliott and Malloree Schurr — were honored.
Three of the four are local products with Laughren and Wright from Unicoi County and Elliott from Science Hill.
Laughren drove in ETSU’s only run with a RBI single to score Nikki Grupp. Wright had the Bucs’ first hit, a single in the second inning, and Elliott made a pair of key defensive plays, including a diving catch to deny likely an extra-base hit in left field.
“They’re definitely a special group and they’ve contributed big time over their careers,” ETSU coach Brad Irwin said. “Tiffany has played in the field, pitched for us and done everything we’ve asked her to. Those three have been all-conference, while Malloree came from basketball and has been a tremendous player for us. Defensively, she’s amazing. They’re a group that has left a definite imprint on this program.”
They just come through with the timely hits Sunday. While the Bucs (19-23) matched the Mocs (31-13) with 10 hits overall, the game turned in the third inning on Amanda Beltran’s three-run home run.
Morgan Kazerooni and Katie Corum later added home runs for Chattanooga.
MacKenzie Dyson (4-5) suffered the loss, while the Mocs’ Celie Hudson (12-8) threw a complete game for the win.
The final result was hard for the Bucs to swallow, but Wright said the team didn’t leave the field discouraged.
“It was tough to lose today, but the team kept staying up,” Wright said. “It’s nice to have a team that looks at the bigger picture and not just one game.
“It has been an honor to play with this group. I’ve grown up with Tiffany and Vanessa. Then to meet new people, this year’s team is special.”
Kelly Warren went 3-for-4 in the lead-off spot to lead ETSU. Lauren Lee and Kelsey Brown each had two hits, while Grupp had a double leading to her run.
Irwin believes this could still be a special season, touting the play of the seniors in key situations.
“Vanessa had two great defensive plays today and she’s always like that,” Irwin said. “She’s as good of a defensive outfielder as we’ve had. Taylor is a kid every time in the box, you feel she’s going to hit it hard. She may not every time, but you feel like there is a chance she’s going to drive it.”
While it was the final home game, the Bucs will finish up the regular season with a three-game series at UNC Greensboro. Then, it’s the Southern Conference tournament which brings back good memories for this team, which won the championship in 2017 when they were sophomores.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Wright said. “When I think back, it shows when you work hard, how it can all come together.”
Mercer 6, ETSU 0
MACON, Ga. — Tanner Hall scattered six hits over eight shutout innings to lead the Bears (24-20) over the Bucs (27-14). It was the first sweep against the Bucs all season and just their second series loss in 11 weekends.
Noah Hill and Ethan Shelton had two hits each to lead ETSU. The Bucs didn’t have any extra-base hits.
Daniel Sweeney (5-3) suffered the loss, giving up four runs and seven hits over 5 2/3 innings. Reliever Nathanial Tate had two unearned runs over the final 2 1/3 innings. They did shut down Mercer’s Kel Johnson, who went 0 for 4 against them, snapping a 42-game reached base streak.
ETSU returns to action at UNC Asheville on Tuesday at 6 p.m. for a non-conference game.
TRACK & FIELD
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Ben Johnson captured three individual titles to lead the East Tennessee State men to a third-place finish in the Southern Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
Johnson won the javelin at 199 feet, six inches for a third straight season. He also won the hammer throw (190-06) and capped it off with a conference record throw of 178-11 in the discus.
Noah Charles, a former Science Hill standout, won the 3,000-meter steeplechase at 9:12.91. Karon Delince, a two-sport standout who plays receiver on the football team, went 24-09 to win the long jump.
The women’s team, led by Kiana Davis finishing runner-up in both the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes, placed fifth overall. Davis was also part of the 4x100 meter relay team, along with Mekayla Brown, Lamisha Simmons and Starr Graham, which finished .05 second behind Mercer.