East Tennessee State ace Kerry Doane (ASunPhotos.com/Romeo Guzman)
DeLAND, Fla. — The Buccaneers have finally found their treasure.
East Tennessee State got another masterful pitching performance from Kerry Doane and beat Kennesaw State 7-2 on Sunday to win the Atlantic Sun Conference baseball championship and secure a spot in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1981.
“The guys found a way,” Bucs coach Tony Skole said. “I’ve been waiting a long time, I’ll tell you that. Couldn’t be more proud of our players, our trainers, our managers. My assistant coaches are tremendous.
“Our guys just kept improving as the year went on, showed a tremendous amount of toughness.”
Doane (13-1) tossed his NCAA-leading 12th complete game, allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits and three walks with three strikeouts.
The senior right-hander, who worked nine innings in ETSU’s extra-inning win against Stetson on Wednesday, was awarded the tournament MVP.
The ETSU offense hammered out 14 hits, led by Derek Niesman (3-for-4) and Dylan Tritsch (3-for-5). Clinton Freeman added two hits and knocked in a run, and Andrew Green singled twice and stole a base.
Jeremy Taylor ripped a two-run single in the sixth to put the Bucs up 5-1. ETSU scored two more runs in the seventh when Kevin Phillips singled home Green and then came home on a sacrifice fly by Alex Reynolds.
Niesman, Reynolds and Taylor joined Doane on the all-tournament team.
Kennesaw State, which beat North Florida 4-2 earlier Sunday to advance to the title game, got two hits from Kal Simmons and an RBI from Andy Almonte.
Owls ace Stephen Janas, who came into the game leading the country with a .86 ERA, suffered his first loss of the year. Janas (9-1) allowed eight hits in 5 1-3 innings and left the game in the sixth with two runners on just before Taylor’s two-RBI single off reliever James Connell.
Janas’ ERA rose to 1.14.
The Bucs (36-22) will find out where they will go for regionals today at noon. The NCAA Selection Show will be televised on ESPNU.