Last year, ETSU finished as the 7th seed in the SoCon and only made it to the second round of the tournament before being put out by Western Carolina.
However, the offseason brought many changes. The biggest, longtime head coach Tony Skole left ETSU after 18 seasons to take the helm as baseball coach at his alum, The Citadel. The new coach, Joe Pennucci, came in this summer along with 12 freshmen and transfers.
Pennucci came in with high praise from then ETSU Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Dr. Richard Sander.
“[He] personifies the work ethic and commitment to excellence that we have developed at ETSU.,” said Sander. “The word is he is a tireless worker, an incredible recruiter, a dynamic relationship builder and a great baseball man.”
Pennucci experienced success at his last position, associate head coach at Stony Brook University, including a trip to the 2012 College World Series. Therefore, expectations were set high for this new season.
Fortunately, Pennucci’s first game went his way. New transfer pitcher Micah Kaczor (Tampa, Florida) had 12 strikeouts, while senior Caleb Longley (Cleveland, Tennessee) had two hits including a home run to lead the Bucs to a 6-2 victory over Northern Kentucky.
After the game, Kaczor said pitching was a key focus.
“I know this team’s history has been hitting, and our staff kind of took that personal,” said Kaczor. “It’s our mission to put that aside and compete every game.”
Along with the hits by Longley, Christian Bailey (Kingsport, Tennessee) also had two runs batted in to give ETSU the early lead of 6-1 at the bottom of the fourth inning.
After the game, Pennucci celebrated his first win with the Buccaneers.
“It’s exciting (to win our first game),” said Pennucci. “[The] guys played well with good energy. I’m really happy for these guys. They’ve worked hard heading into this season.”
The remaining two games against Northern Kentucky were postponed to Sunday due to rain.