East Tennessee State beat Mercer at its own game Saturday.
Bryce Hodge belted a three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning, leading the Bucs to a 7-6 victory over Mercer in the first game of a Southern Conference baseball doubleheader in Macon, Georgia.
In the second game, Nathaniel Tate held Mercer to one hit through six innings, but the Bears torched the ETSU bullpen for five runs in the eighth inning on their way to an 8-4 win.
The split left ETSU 19-20 overall, 9-11 in the SoCon. Mercer is 26-17, 12-6.
Hodge’s home run was ETSU’s fourth of the game and they all came against a team that is ranked third nationally in home runs. Ethan Cady, Jackson Green and Noah Webb also homered for the Bucs.
Hodge gave ETSU a 7-5 lead and the Bucs brought on reliever Matthew Bollenbacher to close it out. Things got a little hairy when Bollenbacher gave up a double, two singles and a sacrifice fly that brought the Bears within a run. With the potential tying run on second base, he induced a groundout to end the game.
Bollenbacher earned his fifth save. Zach Kirby (2-1) was credited with the win with two innings of hitless relief.
Cady went 3 for 5, while Green, Ashton King and Jake Lyle each had two hits.
In the ninth, King and Cady singled off Mercer reliever Luke Sutko (3-4) before Hodge’s decisive blow, his sixth home of the season.
For Mercer, Angelo DiSpigna had a three-run home run and Garett Delano added three hits.
ETSU’s victory broke an eight-game losing streak to Mercer.
Tate was cruising through the powerful Mercer lineup and the Bucs were sitting pretty with a 4-0 lead thanks to RBI doubles by Hodge and Webb, a run-scoring single from Sean Kearney and a sacrifice fly by Webb.
The Bears finally got to Tate in the bottom of the seventh. Le Basset led off with a double, just Mercer’s second hit of the game. Tate got a one-out strikeout, but it came on a wild pitch, putting runners on first and third.
Bill Knight followed with a three-run home run to right field, cutting the Bucs’ lead to 4-3.
That ended day for Tate, who worked 6 1/3 innings and allowed three runs on three hits. He struck out eight. He also walked two, threw three wild pitches and hit three batters.
Seth Chavez (0-2) relieved and gave up four runs on three hits and three walks in 1 1/3 innings.
Mercer’s key hits in the five-run inning were back-to-back two-run singles by Brandon Michie and Garett Gelano. It left the Bears up 8-4.
The Bucs got a couple of runners on in the ninth, but couldn’t scratch home any more runs.
UNC Greensboro comes to Thomas Stadium for a three-game SoCon series, beginning with a single game Friday. The teams will play a doubleheader Saturday.