Down by three runs through four innings of play, East Tennessee State fought back to tie the game before earning its second consecutive extra-inning win in the Atlantic Sun Conference baseball tournament, 7-4 over No. 23 Mercer on Friday afternoon at Stetson’s Melching Field.
ETSU freshman Kevin Phillips’ solo home run with two outs knotted the game at 4 in the top of the eighth inning to send it to extras.
Senior Andrew Green, who broke the school record for stolen bases on Friday, scored what proved to be the game-winning run on a wild pitch in the top of the 10th.
Junior reliever Clinton Freeman picked up his second straight tournament victory. Freeman (7-1) held the Bears (43-15) scoreless over the final three innings and moved into a tie with Northern Kentucky’s Brett Loeding for the season lead in games finished at 21.
The southpaw from Jonesborough scattered three hits and struck out three.
Sophomore Jimmy Nesselt gave up four runs on seven hits and struck out a career-high seven batters in seven innings of work for the Bucs, who improved to 7-0 in extra-inning games this season.
Green, who finished 1-for-4 with a walk, has reached base safely in 21 straight games. He stole the 76th base of his ETSU career in the sixth to break Tony Martin’s record (1980-83).
Bucs senior Derek Niesman extended his hitting streak to 14 straight games after going 3-for-5 with an RBI and a career-high three runs scored. Senior catcher Mason Hershey had two hits.
ETSU’s 6 through 9 batters generated seven of its 11 hits.
The Bucs (34-22) extended their winning streak to five while snapping Mercer’s victory streak at six. The Bucs’ 34 wins are tied for fourth all-time in program history.
Green started ETSU’s three-run 10th by reaching on a one-out walk and advanced to third on Freeman’s single to right. With one out and runners on the corners, Green sprinted home on all-conference reliever Dimitri Kourtis’ third wild pitch of the season. Freeman scored on Niesman’s two-out RBI single to left. Niesman advanced to second on his base hit when Logan Gaines had trouble picking up the ball, and he came home on Reynolds’ single to right.
The Bears made things interesting in the bottom of the inning. Sasha Lagarde and A-Sun player of the year Chesny Young reached on one-out singles, but Freeman forced Nick Backlund to fly out to center and struck out Gaines looking to end the game.
Kourtis (5-2) gave up three runs, two of them earned, on three hits in 1 2-3 innings of relief. Austin Barrett had three of the Bears’ 10 hits.
The Bucs play USC-Upstate, a 10-1 winner over 23rd-ranked Mercer on Friday night, at 1:15 p.m. on Saturday.