Kerry Doane likes to finish what he starts.
Doane pitched his third complete game in his last four outings Saturday, lifting East Tennessee State’s baseball team to a 3-2 victory over Florida Gulf Coast in the opening game of a doubleheader at Thomas Stadium.
“If I’m going in the game and my team’s working behind me, I know I can finish the game,” said Doane, who threw 120 pitches and improved to 4-1. “They know I’m gonna go out there and finish it.”
The Eagles’ bats came to life in the second game as they had 16 hits and battled past the Bucs, 10-9, for a split of the twinbill. ETSU is 13-8 overall, 3-3 in the Atlantic Sun Conference. Florida Gulf Coast, which took two of three from the Bucs, left town 15-5, 2-1. All three games were decided by one run.
ETSU had the tying and winning runs in scoring position in the bottom of the ninth inning of the nightcap, but Dylan Tritsch, who already had two hits, struck out to end the game.
“It’s hard to beat anybody twice in one day, much less a good team like Florida Gulf Coast,” ETSU coach Tony Skole said. “I’m really proud of our guys for battling.
“We have to get a lot better. They’re the best team in our league right now and that’s who everybody is chasing. But I like the fact that we competed well and played pretty well. If we just executed a little bit more, we win three games this weekend.”
Andrew Green’s RBI double in the fifth inning of the opener broke a 2-2 tie and Doane made sure it held up by retiring 12 of the last 13 batters he faced. The senior righty limited the Eagles to six hits and struck out five.
Doane ended the game by striking out Florida Gulf Coast’s Nick Rivera, who drove in the winning run in the Eagles’ 3-2 victory on Friday night.
“He gives us a chance every time,” Skole said. “He didn’t have a great outing last time when he got beat at Upstate, but just watching him come to work this past week, he wasn’t gonna lose this game today. I’m really proud of him.”
In the bottom of the fifth, Jeremy Taylor walked and stole second base. Green then blasted a line drive to the base of the fence in right field to drive in what proved to be the winning run.
Clinton Freeman was warming up in the bullpen while the Bucs batted in the bottom of the eighth, so it was unclear who would pitch the ninth for ETSU. Skole left his workhorse in the game.
“He knows if I’m in the game and I’m still going with not too many pitches and still feeling good, then I’m going out for the ninth,” said Doane, who has an ERA of 2.02 after his seventh appearance.
Zack Tillery had three of Florida Gulf Coast’s six hits. Green was the only ETSU player with more than one hit, going 2 for 3.
The second game was a back-and-forth affair, with each team leading by two runs at least once and the score being tied five times.
Rivera and Michael Suchy belted back-to-back solo home runs on consecutive pitches from Freeman, making his second start of the season, in the fourth for a 4-2 lead. They were the first home runs allowed by Freeman this year.
Chris Riopedre’s two-run homer in the fourth tied it 4-4. It was his fourth home run of the season.
After the Eagles went up 10-7 in the top of the ninth, the Bucs had one last gasp.
Kevin Phillips led off with a single. Jordan Sanford belted a pinch-hit double down the right field line to score Phillips. After Freeman made it 10-9 with a single, Tyler Roach came on as a pinch hitter and doubled to left.
That left runners on second and third with two outs for Tritsch, who struck out swinging at a pitch from Harrison Cooney.
ETSU used five pitchers. Will Chesney (1-1) was credited with the loss after allowing three runs on five hits in two innings.
“It comes down to a pitch here or there,” Skole said. “I think the back end of their bullpen is a little better than the back end of our bullpen. We gave ourselves opportunities, but we gave up six runs in the last four innings and that turned out to be the difference.”
Freeman, Tritsch, Riopedre and Phillips each finished with two hits for ETSU. Phillips drove in three runs with a two-run double and a sacrifice fly.
Rivera and Tillery had three hits for the Eagles. Tillery came into the doubleheader hitting .217 and went 6 for 7 to raise his average to .302.
The Bucs return to action Tuesday night with a home game against Radford. They resume A-Sun play with a three-game series at North Florida next weekend.