Starting pitcher Landon Knack tied a career high with 11 strikeouts and the Bucs downed Toledo 6-2 at Thomas Stadium.
Knack, a Science Hill alumnus, faced 19 batters over five innings. The senior right-hander gave up two hits and one walk, leaving the game after 77 pitches and ETSU up 3-0.
“Everything felt pretty good today. My fastball was getting by them and the slider was working to help me later to get through a jam,” Knack said. “Getting off to a good start gets you going for the season. Last year, we got off to a good start and were 20-5 at one point. I think coming out today and setting the tone, we can build on that.”
Cade Gilbert hit a two-run single through the left side to score Jake Lyle and Ben Jackson in the third inning for a 2-0 Bucs lead. A throwing error led to a run by Ethan Cady in the fourth and a 3-0 advantage.
Jamie Meyers got the Rockets on the board with a crushing shot that hit the edge of the center field scoreboard in the sixth.
Jake Madole, a graduate transfer from UNC Asheville, answered for ETSU in the seventh with a solo home run over left field.
The Bucs then tacked on a run another run in the seventh and one in the eighth while the bullpen held the Rockets in check.
Matt Mercer gave up the solo home run in the sixth, but that was the only hit he allowed over two innings. Nathanial Tate came on in the eighth and went 1 1/3 innings, giving up a solo home run to Matt Kirk in the ninth. Daulton Montagna struck out the final two batters for the save.
“It all starts with the mound. Landon came out, threw strikes and competed as always,” ETSU coach Joe Pennucci said. “The middle innings are often the tough ones, but Mercer did a good job. The beauty of baseball is picking everybody up. Nate came in got an inning and Daulton did a good job of bailing him out.”
Gilbert went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and leadoff batter Noah Hill had two hits.
Layne Schnitz-Paxton suffered the loss. He allowed four hits, four walks and three runs over four innings, striking out four.
ETSU outhit Toledo 7-5.
“We did a pretty good job offensively of tacking on some runs,” Pennucci said. “Cade Gilbert’s two-run single was huge. We had a couple of two-out RBIs that were huge and it was great to get on the board first.”
The teams are scheduled to return to action Saturday at 2 p.m. and the series finale is set for Sunday at 1 p.m.