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ETSU Buccaneers edge Tech, 6-5, with ninth inning rally

Photo: Freshman Jake McWhirter pitched six strong innings Wednesday in his first career start

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- The East Tennessee State Buccaneers rallied for five runs in the top of the ninth, including a two-out, three-run home run by Dylan Pratt that proved to be the game-winner, to claim a 6-5, come-from-behind victory over Tennessee Tech in Bush Stadium Wednesday afternoon.

It was the third consecutive comeback win for ETSU (11-2), which snapped a 10-game losing streak in Cookeville that dated back to 1996. The loss for the Golden Eagles (7-10) ended a three-game winning streak.

Tech will host Purdue in a three-game series this weekend, beginning Friday at 3 p.m. with the first contest. The Golden Eagles and Boilermakers meet Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1 o'clock.

The Bucs' comeback spoiled a brilliant effort by Golden Eagle freshman Jake McWhirter in his first career start. The rookie pitched the first six innings allowing just one run on three hits, yielding way to the bullpen with a 3-1 lead to start the seventh.

Cullen Park pitched well through the seventh and eighth innings, and Tech took a 5-1 lead into the final frame.

ETSU hitter Andrew Green beat out an infield roller to open the ninth and Kerry Doane's drive to center field was off the glove of Chad Oberacker at the fence, putting runners at second and third. Park struck out pinch-hitter Michael Gonzalez and got another strikeout, fanning Matthew Scruggs for the second out.

Bo Reeder beat out a grounder toward short, driving home a run to make it 5-2, and Paul Hoilman singled to center, scoring another run to make it 5-3.

Junior Matthew Shepherd replaced Park on the hill, and Pratt drove an 0-1 pitch over the fence in right center to cap the rally and push the Bucs ahead, 6-5.

Reeder struck out the bottom of the Tech lineup in the ninth to earn his eighth save of the season. Shepherd (1-3) was charged with the loss while Dak Rissman (1-0) claimed his first win of the season after pitching to two batters in the Golden Eagle half of the eighth.

McWhirter mowed down ETSU through four scoreless innings before Reeder drove a two-out home run to left for a 1-0 lead in the top of the fifth.

Tech came back with three in the bottom of the fifth off ETSU starter Ben Booker, all coming with two outs. Evan Frazier singled up the middle and Austin Wulf singled to right, setting the stage for Zephan Guyear to drive a two-run triple into the corner in right field.

The Golden Eagles added two more runs in the eighth to make it 5-1, also coming with a two-run triple. This time, Wulf singled and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. After an intentional walk to Chad Oberacker, freshman Zack Stephens ripped a shot off the center field fence that bounced away from the outfielder and wound up as a triple.

Wulf led the way at the plate, getting three of Tech's nine hits in the contest.