After the Bucs tied the game up in the sixth inning, the Hokies responded with two runs in the seventh and held on for a 4-2 non-conference victory. It gave the Hokies (19-14) a season sweep of the Bucs after winning 9-3 on Feb. 12 in Blacksburg.
Carson Taylor came up with the big at-bat for the Hokies. With the game tied 2-2 in the seventh inning, he provided the go-ahead run on an RBI triple and then scored the final run on Kerry Carpenter’s sacrifice fly.
ETSU, which had four hits, missed on scoring opportunities in the final innings. David Beam had a double with one out in the eighth inning, but they weren’t able to advance him. Ethan Shelton singled in the ninth and advanced to third as the Bucs had runners on the corners and the go-ahead run at the plate. A strikeout ended the threat.
Cullen Smith went 2-for-4 to lead ETSU offensively.
“I thought we could have swung at some better pitches,” ETSU coach Joe Pennucci said. “We bailed them out a little when we had some positive counts. We should have hit some balls better, although I’m glad with some of the plays we made out there (in the field).”
One such play was Shelton making a tough over-the-shoulder grab in the ninth inning, which would have likely led to another Virginia Tech run.
Carpenter finished with two RBIs to lead the Hokies, which also had lead-off batter Jack Owens go 2-for-4 with two runs scored.
With the lead, Hokies relievers Jaison Heard, Nathan Starliper and Zach Brzykcy held on for the win.
“As the game went on and we were leaving so many men left on base, it was good to cash in,” Virginia Tech assistant coach Kurt Elbin said. “Then for our bullpen to come in and hold them down, our guys — Heard, Starlip, Brzykcy — did an awesome job. We had a few timely hits, although we could have done better.”
The Hokies left 11 on base but came through with eight hits. Heard (1-0) got the win, while ETSU reliever Colby Stuart (1-2) was saddled with the loss, giving up two hits and two runs.
The Bucs pulled ahead 1-0 in the first inning on Cade Gilbert’s RBI ground out to score Jake Lyle. Virginia Tech responded with a run in the third off Carpenter’s RBI single and one in the fourth off Nick Biddison’s bases-loaded walk to take the lead.
ETSU plated a tying run in the sixth with Smith’s RBI single, but the Hokies came back the next frame with two runs. Taylor hit the aforementioned RBI triple to right center field and Carpenter followed the next at-bat with a sacrifice fly to center field for a 4-2 Tech lead.
The Bucs avoided more damage in the eighth when Matthew Mercer came in with the bases loaded and no outs. He proceeded to get three consecutive strikeouts to work out of the jam. He added a fourth strikeout in the ninth, giving up one hit over two innings.
“Mercer has done a great job for us all season,” Pennucci said. “He had a little hiccup last weekend, but he does what good players do and that is to respond when they’re not at their best. It was great to see that bounce back and take care of business.”
Both teams return to conference play this weekend. ETSU embarks on a three-game series at Furman, while Virginia Tech plays at Duke.