Bucs handle VMI to win third straight SoCon series

Published 4:33 pm Monday, May 15, 2023

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ETSU sits one game back of third place in SoCon standings
LEXINGTON, Va. – The ETSU baseball team did itself some huge favors heading into the final weekend of Southern Conference play, capping off a three-game series at VMI with a doubleheader split to take the series on Mother’s Day Sunday at Gray-Minor Stadium in Lexington.
After winning the series opener on Friday night and sitting out Saturday due to weather delays, ETSU returned to the diamond for a twin bill on Sunday. The first game nearly ended in an epic comeback, as the Bucs lost 7-6 to tie the series despite six unanswered runs in the late going. With the series finale serving as the rubber match, ETSU earned a 9-6 victory in the nightcap.
The win marked ETSU’s third consecutive time winning a SoCon series following two wins over both The Citadel and Western Carolina. Following a 2-7 start after three series against league leaders Mercer, Samford and Wofford, the Bucs have since posted a 6-3 record in league play.
With the two wins this weekend, ETSU moves to 8-10 in conference games to sit in a tie for fifth in the league standings with UNCG. VMI — who has no SoCon games remaining — currently sits ahead of both teams by a small percentage at 9-11. Both ETSU and UNCG are currently only one game back of Wofford at 9-9, who occupies third place.
This sets up an all-important series in Johnson City next weekend as UNCG faces ETSU. The winner of the series will jump VMI and are in play for the No. 4 seed in the upcoming SoCon Baseball Championship — meaning a Day 1 bye from the single-elimination portion of the tournament.
GAME 1 — VMI 7, ETSU 6
 The Keydets were in full command of Sunday’s opener with two runs in the second, four runs in the fourth and another for insurance in the sixth. That is until ETSU had a six-run rally in the eighth inning to work it back to a one-run deficit.
This six-run surge was sparked by a leadoff double by Leo Jiminian (Saint-Lo, France), who later moved around on two free-passes and scored on a wild pitch. One more free pass allowed Buccaneer slugger Cameron Sisneros (Littleton, Colo.) to step in with the bases loaded. One pitch created instant regret for VMI as Sisneros tanked a grand slam to make it a 7-5 ball game. Sisneros became the first ETSU player to hit a grand slam this season.
Another run scored on an RBI double by Noah Webb (Kodak, Tenn.) to score fellow namesake and fellow statesman Noah Gent (Corryton, Tenn.). With runners on the corners, VMI stopped the bleeding with a strikeout to end the rally.
With the Keydets on full guard at this point, the Bucs went to the bottom half and took care of business to keep it a one-run contest. Pitcher Trevor Hanselman (Tallahassee, Fla.) finished 1.2 shutout innings in the eighth — ending the frame with a successful pickoff throw to Sisneros covering first to erase the final runner.
It all came down to the ninth inning, as Nick Iannantone (Plainfield, Ill.) put the tying run in scoring position with a one-out double. Unfortunately for the road team, a pair of strikeouts thrown by the home team closed the contest and tied the series.
Iannantone, Jiminian and Sisneros led the offense with two-hit days, including four RBI off the bat of Sisneros. Eight of nine Buccaneers in the starting lineup had at least one hit. Both teams had 11 hits on the day — many of ETSU’s coming late — but the Bucs stranded seven more baserunners with 16 left on base.
Prior to Hanselman on the mound, junior left-hander Austin Emener (Macon, Ga.) threw 2.2 innings with just one earned run allowed. He and starter Colby Stuart (Elon, N.C.) combined for four strikeouts.
 Win – Trey Morgan (2-2)
Loss – Colby Stuart (1-5)
Save – Will Riley (6)
GAME 2 — ETSU 9, VMI 6
 With the series and important SoCon seeding implications at stake, ETSU came through in its best offensive inning this season — the seventh — with a five-run rally. The Bucs clang to a three-run lead in the late innings but took care of business to win its third consecutive series.
The winning pitcher in the series decider was Cade Carlson (Carmel, Ind.), who closed the game with five innings of relief and kept his team ahead the whole time he was in. Carlson scattered three hits and three runs — all of which came on a three-run homer — but came back with five strikeouts and improved to a 4-1 record.
The scoring started with a solo homer from Skyler Cannady (Nicholasville, Ky.) to lead off the second inning — his first as a Buccaneer. The second-year JUCO transfer from nearby Walters State went opposite field into left center field for the blast.
VMI answered in the third inning with an RBI single, but the Bucs wasted no time getting back ahead in the next half inning with a single by Cody Miller (Rocky Point, N.Y.) which resulted in a score by Ryan McCarthy (Knoxville, Tenn.). After that, Iannantone hit a sacrifice fly to score Justin Hanvey (Purcellville, Va.) to make it 3-1.
Following his grand slam from the opener, Sisneros clubbed an encore in the fifth inning of the night cap to make it 4-1 — a leadoff solo shot to deep centerfield. The Keydets answered with two runs to end an otherwise strong day from pitcher Landon Smiddy (Knoxville, Tenn.), bringing on Carlson in relief. Carlson got three groundouts to end the threat and keep his team ahead.
Both teams traded back-to-back strikeouts and inning-ending flyouts in the sixth, sending us to the back stretch with a one-run contest. The seventh inning provided a ton of fireworks with five runs by the Bucs and a three-run homer by the Keydets to answer — making it 9-6. Hanvey hit a two-RBI single with the bases loaded, then leading hitters Iannantone and Sisneros combined to bring home three more runs with singles.
After VMI got back within three and kept ETSU from scoring with two stranded in the eighth, Carlson returned to the bump and gave up a leadoff double. That threat didn’t last long, as Carlson struck out the next batter, erased the runner with a pickoff and later got the final out with no runs allowed. He retired the side in order to close the ninth, earning his fourth win of the season.
Carlson and Smiddy combined for six strikeouts to just three walks.
Five Buccaneers had multi-hit games in the nightcap, including Iannantone and Sisneros to end both games with multiple hits. The pair were joined by Hanvey with two-RBI games.
Once again, ETSU nearly doubled VMI in runners left on base, but came through when it counted to get the all-important runs. The Bucs stranded 13 runners, while VMI left seven. Both teams totaled 12 hits. The Bucs did not commit any errors in the finale but VMI had two to allow one unearned run.
 Win – Cade Carlson (4-1)
Loss – Jack Thompson (0-1)
Save – None
 ETSU: 23-26, 8-10
VMI: 25-26, 9-11
The Bucs are tied with UNCG in the SoCon standings, and both are still alive for a tournament bye. All of that will be decided this coming weekend as ETSU welcomes the Spartans to Thomas Stadium starting Thursday, May 18 at 5 p.m.

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