JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (May 15, 2014) – Jimmy Nesselt (Plantation, Fla.) tossed his first collegiate complete game and all nine of ETSU’s starters recorded a hit as the Buccaneers powered past Mercer, 7-2, in the series opener Thursday night at Thomas Stadium.
Nesselt used his pin-point location all night to keep the Bears in check as the junior right-hander allowed two runs on seven hits, while striking out seven to earn the win. The Plantation, Fla. native worked out of jams in the second and third innings by picking up a pair of double plays, while Nesselt struck out Chesny Young swinging and Matt Sorrow (Griffin, Ga.) gunned down Michael Massi stealing to end the sixth.
Momentum quickly shifted following the play as Kevin Phillips (St. Louis, Mo.) belted a three-run home run in the bottom of the inning, giving the Blue and Gold their first lead of the night, 4-1. The three-run cushion proved to be enough offense for Nesselt to work with as he improved to 7-5 after tossing 127 pitches on the night.
Phillips’ homer was his third of the season, while Clinton Freeman (Jonesborough, Tenn.) and Trey York (Knoxville, Tenn.) both finished with three hits. Freeman tied the game at one when his Atlantic Sun-leading 12th home run cleared the wall in right-center in the fourth, while Chris Riopedre (Miami, Fla.) delivered the knockout punch when his two-out, two-run scoring double down the line in right plated Freeman and Jordan Sanford (Powell, Tenn.) in the seventh. Sanford extended his hit streak to 11 straight games, courtesy of his two-out single earlier that inning. Freeman was a triple shy of the cycle as he also singled, doubled and scored three runs.
As a team, ETSU out-hit Mercer, 13-7, while the Bucs went 4-for-11 with runners in scoring position and tallied three two-out RBI. The Bears went 1-of-3 with runners in scoring position and only 2-for-9 with two outs (one RBI).
With the win, the Bucs snapped their five-game losing streak and remained in fifth-place in the conference standings after improving to 25-27, 12-12. Mercer, who defeated then No. 23 Georgia Tech and No. 4 Florida earlier this season, dipped to 37-14, 17-8.
Both teams squandered scoring chances in the first three innings, but after both pitchers tossed three scoring innings the long ball came into play in the fourth.
Derrick Workman gave the Bears a 1-0 lead when he sent a 2-2 pitch to opposite field and cleared the wall in left, but Freeman jump-started the Buccaneer offense as he led off the bottom of the frame for his round-tripper to even the game at one.
From there, both team were held scoreless in the fifth, and things turned in the sixth.
Following the Bucs picking up the strike ‘em out throw ‘em out twin killing, Phillips hit a monster shot off the scoreboard in left, putting the Bucs ahead, 4-1. Prior to the blast, Freeman led off the frame with a double to left and Riopedre reached on a passed ball strikeout.
The Bears pulled within two runs when Nick Backlund led off the seventh with a towering homer to left, but with two outs and runners on first and second, Riopedre greeted Mercer reliever Stephen Glaze with a clutch two-RBI double down the line in right to make it a 7-2 contest.
ETSU capped off its scoring in the eighth when Sorrow became the final Buccaneer starter to register a hit as his two-out single scored York – who reached via a double earlier in the frame – resulting in a 7-2 contest.
Nesselt made quick work of the Bears in the ninth as he struck out the side and snapped ETSU’s skid.
Mercer starter Brandon Barker took the loss (4-4) after allowing five runs (four earned) on nine hits and struck out six in 6.2 innings.
Seven different hitters accounted for the Bears’ hits as Backlund and Workman provided the RBI with their solo homers.
The Bucs look to win the series Friday night as first pitch is set for 7:05 p.m.