Bucs drop slugfest to Charleston

By Matt Hill

   JOHNSON CITY--33 runs, 33 hits, seven errors, six hit batters.
   And it all came down to a play at home plate.
   College of Charleston made the play of the game in the field with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to upend East Tennessee State 17-16 in a wild baseball contest at Cardinal Park.
   The Bucs cut the Cougar advantage to one run after a two-RBI single by Steven Calicutt that put Beau Alford on second.
   It looked like the Bucs had tied the contest after Shane Byrne's hit into left field, but Charleston's Brett Gardner threw Alford out at home plate to send the Cougars back to the coast with a victory.
   "Base hit, two outs, down by a run in the bottom of the inning, he's got to field it perfect and throw it perfect to get the runner out," Alford said. "That's exactly what he did. There's no going around it. He made a great play and a great throw. Today, they made more plays than we did. That's the only reason they beat us. We played good enough on the offensive side to come out with a victory."
   The Cougars and Bucs both had the same number of hits as runs. Five different pitchers were used by the Cougars, while the Bucs used four.
   The Bucs also had four errors and Charleston tallied three.
   Charleston led 15-8 going into the bottom of the eighth inning, an advantage that was just a little too much to overcome.
   "This was by far our best offensive day of the year," ETSU head coach Tony Skole said. "We scored in seven of the nine innings, and we haven't done that yet.
   "What ended up costing us the game was keeping them from scoring. When a team scores in eight of the nine innings and in six of them they score more than one run, it makes it tough to beat them when you let teams get across the plate like that.
   Skole was concerned about the four errors, and felt like that could have been a huge factor in the loss.
   "We had a lot of chances throughout the game to make a play defensively that might get us out of a jam or just keep one run from crossing the plate," Skole said. "I could think of a lot of plays that could have prevented them from scoring one or two runs."
   The Bucs made a furious rally in the bottom of the eighth that brought in six runs to cut the Cougars advantage down to 15-14. Charleston added two runs in the top of the ninth to give the Cougars a three-run cushion going into the bottom half of the inning.
   Alford took solace in the Buccaneer comeback.
   "Every day it seems like we're playing better," Alford said. I really have a feeling that in the next couple of weeks this team is going to bust out. I think we're going to put it all together and become a winning team."
   Alford hopes the busting out will occur on Tuesday night at home against Tennessee.
   "They're coming to our home park," Alford said. "We hit it, we catch it and we throw it. It's anybody's victory. They're coming to our park, and we have a lot of confidence on the offensive side. Of course, we have a chance to go on to victory. It would be great for our program."
   James Fender earned the win in relief for Charleston, while Jeremy Hall received the loss. Five different Buccaneer players had three hits on the day."