It looked as if ETSU had extended batting practice Wednesday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville. The Bucs built a 10-run lead on four home runs in the first three innings and managed to hang on for the season sweep over the Tennessee Volunteers, winning 11-9.
“It’s a big win for our program,” Head Coach Tony Skole said after the game. “Obviously, we’ve been struggling a little bit this year and it’s been a lot of peaks and valleys and I’m really proud of our kids because they haven’t quit all year.”
The Bucs got home runs from Paul Hoilman in the first, when he hit a two-run shot to highlight a three-run inning. Then Troy Mendez, Derek Trent and Bart Roark added home runs in the top of the third inning to build the lead that eventually proved to be enough.
Mendez led off the inning with a solo-home run and former Dobyns-Bennett standout Derek Trent followed later with a three-run shot of his own.
“Getting the early lead helped the pitchers and allowed them to throw strikes,” Trent said. “We had a lot of confidence coming out and we just got the job done.”
After a Danny Petro walk, Roark hit a two-run home run to give the Bucs a nine-run lead. Mendez, in his second at-bat of the inning, added a RBI double to drive in the seventh Buccaneer and round out the ETSU seven-run inning.
“One thing, over the past five weeks, we have really been hitting the ball well,” Skole said. “It gave us enough cushion and we held on.”
“The kids have been working hard, and practicing hard, and tonight we just came out swinging the bats well.”
After the three-inning surge by the Bucs, Tennessee bullpen managed to slow the Bucs to only one run on one hit over the next 6 1/3 innings.
With the Bucs cooled down at the plate, Tennessee began clawing its way back into the game.
Tennessee scored runs in five of the last seven innings to trim the ETSU lead to two runs.
Shawn Griffin hit home runs in the third and fourth inning totaling three RBI in back-to-back at-bats and designated hitter P.J. Polk added a two-run home run, his second of the year, to cut the lead to 10-5.
“Our hitters came through; we hit the ball real well,” Griffin said after going 4-for-4 from the plate. “Ty’Relle [Harris] came in and pitched well, but getting down 10-nothing was too much to come back from.”
Griffin scored again in the sixth when ETSU centerfielder Jacob Fabry bobbled a Yan Gomes base hit, allowing Griffin to score.
The Vols continued the rally in the seventh with their third two-run home run of the game. This time coming from senior third baseman Cody Brown and trimming the Bucs lead to 11-8.
Tennessee managed another run in the eighth, but ultimately ran out of at-bats as ETSU hung on.
“We knew they were going to score, and we knew it was going to be a tough game, but we just kept playing,” Trent said.
Skole said he was proud of his team for not becoming passive after building such a large lead in such a short period of time.
“I think it’s hard, when you come out and get a lead,” Skole said. “Then you have a tendency to sit back. And of course they have a very dangerous lineup, with a lot of and they can get runs in a hurry.”
“You just don’t want to get on your heals, you just want to keep attacking and attacking.”
The loss drops the Vols to 24-17 on the season as they prepare for their second consecutive SEC road trip this weekend at Mississippi State.
“I really thought we were going to come back and win that game. But you just can’t spot anybody 10 runs,” Raleigh said. “The double-plays killed us, but you just can’t spot anybody 10 runs.
The Bucs used five different pitchers on the night with Josh Means picking up the win and moving to 2-7 on the year. Means worked three innings from the mound, giving up two runs on three hits.
Steve Crnkovich and Joey Rosas combined to give up 10 runs on 10 hits with Crnkovich taking the loss. Crnkovich drops to 5-5 on the year after starting the season with four consecutive wins.
ETSU will travel to Lipscomb for a weekend series. Friday and Saturday’s games are scheduled for 6 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. The Vols will also be on the road in conference play as they travel to Starkville, Mississippi to face Mississippi State in a weekend series.