Thursday, March 30, 2006
I took Wednesday night as a night to relax and treated myself to some college baseball. Two of my alma maters - ETSU and UT - were scheduled to play, and I always make a point to attend at least one of the home-and-home games, either at Lindsey Nelson Stadium or at Cardinal Park in Johnson City. Although some of the games have been close (the 1995 contest at Cardinal Park which was won by UT 16-15 stands as one of the best games I have ever seen at any level), UT has certainly had the upper hand in this rivalry. In fact, I believe that ETSU has only bested the Vols five times in my lifetime, and two of those would have been before I was in kindergarten.
It's always difficult to pick who I am rooting for when ETSU and UT play. Generally, in baseball and basketball, I tend to pick my Bucs over my Vols. Even though I played tennis for ETSU, I tend to stick with the Vols in tennis contests because they at least give American players a chance, while ETSU chooses to impart the anyone-but-Americans philosophy that was the mantra of current Athletic Director Dave Mullins. On this night, though, I was cheering for the Bucs because of their historical underdog status and their need for a win.
I am shocked to admit this, but ETSU shouldn't have been the underdog upon further review. They are a better team that Tennessee. The Bucs hit better, field better, and compete better. They may even have a slight edge in coaching. Tennessee has the advantage in pitching (there simply isn't a James Adkins or Sean Watson for the Bucs), but that's about it.
The Bucs came away with a 9-8 victory - snapping a 12-game losing streak to the Vols - that wasn't nearly as close as the score indicates. UT scored runs on passed balls, dubious balk calls, incorrect fair balls down the line, and a few lucky swings. ETSU hit the ball better than UT and would have won by a larger margin if two of the Bucs' 4 pitchers hadn't had off nights. Joey McCown (5-0) pitched 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief for the Bucs for the win, which is poetic justice given that McCown is a local product from Alcoa High School. McCown reminds me a great deal of fellow southpaw Clint Goocher, a pitcher for the Tennessee Smokies of the Arizona Diamondbacks farm system. Steven Calicutt picked up his fifth save of the season by working out of a tough jam in the 8th and throwing a perfect four-pitch 9th.
UT will get it's shot at revenge next week in Johnson City. The Vols are scheduled to make the trip up I-81 next Wednesday, April 5th.