The Buccaneers faced the Mercer Bears in the Southern Conference opener Friday at 6 p.m. at OrthoGeorgia Park in Macon, Georgia.
The East Tennessee State University baseball team has not had much success with Mercer in the past, when asked about the upcoming series.
“We consider this a completely different team this year,” said Junior Chris Cook (Kingsport, Tennessee). “As long as we stick to what we know and believe in and just keep playing good baseball everything should fall into place.”
Cook currently leads the 2017 team with 24 runs, seven stolen bases, 104 total plate appearances and 86 at bats.
The Bucs were defeated when the Bears had a stream of runs late in the eighth inning. In the top of the fifth inning, Cook hit a single, sending Caleb Longley (Cleveland, Tennessee) home from third, for the Bucs’ first run of the game.
Aaron Maher (Brentwood, Tennessee) posted the second, and last run for the Buccaneers early in the eighth inning. After stealing second, Maher hurried home off a single from Cullen Smith (Lebanon, Tennessee).
Pitcher Ryan Simpler (Lewes, Delaware) matched his career high by striking out eight batters, walking one and allowing only one earned run in seven innings.
Cook lead the game with five at bats and two hits. Maher and Hunter Parker (Chattanooga, Tennessee) each had four at bats and two hits.
In the second game of the series, lasting three and a half hours with a recorded attendance of 1,318 fans, the Bucs lost to the Bears 6-10. Each team had 12 hits and seven out of the 10 runs Mercer scored happened in the second inning. At the start of the third inning Parker doubled to left field, sending junior Hagen Owenby (Knoxville, Tennessee) to home plate for the first run of the night for the Buccaneers.
To start off the fourth inning, Seth Cunningham (Bristol, Virginia) bunted and darted to first, then stealing second. Cunningham logged two stolen bases in the second game of the series, eventually advancing to third off a wild pitch and scoring on a fielding error. After advancing to third off of a Christian Bailey (Kingsport, Tennessee) double to center field Maher recorded the third run for the Bucs early in the fifth inning when Parker grounded a ball allowing Maher to make it home safely.
Cullen Smith, Bailey and Maher were the three Bucs scoring in the seventh inning but ultimately the Buccaneers were unable to hold off the Mercer Bears Saturday afternoon. The Bears had a total of 31 at bats, 10 RBI, five strikeouts and eight bases on balls.
The Bucs have only lost five out of nine away games, Cook said, “Traveling doesn’t affect us. We like it. The team enjoys getting away from school for a few days and being in a different environment.”
The Bucs bounced back in the final game of the series, defeating the Bears 9-2. Blake Smith (Ninety Six, South Carolina) only allowed eight hits and two runs, he is now 2-2. Bailey lead the team, going 3-5 at the plate. The Bucs are now 12-9 in the regular season and 1-2 in the Southern Conference. They will be traveling to Radford, Virginia Tuesday March 28 and facing the Radford Highlanders at 6 p.m.