Hughston Armstrong and Johnathan Stokes homered in consecutive innings to stake The Citadel to sizeable early lead, and the Bulldogs cruised to a 7-3 victory over East Tennessee State in a non-conference game Wednesday night at Riley Park.
The Bulldogs won their fourth in a row to improve to 21-17 while the Buccaneers lost for only the second time in their past nine games to fall to 21-13.
The win was the 500th at home for The Citadel in 22 seasons under head coach Fred Jordan, a total that includes 365 at Riley Park. It came at the expense of former Bulldog standout and Citadel Athletic Hall of Fame member Tony Skole, who is in his 14th season as the head coach at ETSU.
Austin Livingston turned in his third straight solid start for The Citadel, working the first four innings in a split staff game and allowing five hits and two runs to run his record to 3-0. In his previous two starts, the freshman right hander combined to throw 8 1/3 innings with only three runs surrendered (two earned) in a pair of no-decisions against nationally-ranked Coastal Carolina and South Carolina.
The Bulldogs took advantage of three ETSU errors in the bottom of the first to jump out to a 2-0 lead. With the bases loaded and two out, Calvin Orth hit a grounder that was booted by shortstop Jordan Sanford, who parlayed the miscue by throwing the ball into right field for his second error on the play. Armstrong and Joe Jackson came across to score for the quick Citadel lead.
That's when the power took over. With two on and one out in the second, Armstrong drove one over the fence in right field off ETSU starter Griffin Krieg for his first home run in 102 career games, extending The Citadel lead to 5-0. The center fielder had two hits in the game and raised his batting average to a team-leading .383.
An inning later, Orth walked to lead off the frame and Stokes launched a 0-2 pitch just inside the left field foul pole for a two-run shot and a 7-0 Bulldog cushion. The round tripper was Stokes' second of the season and career and increased his RBI total to 30 after driving in five his entire freshman season.
The Bulldog shortstop has knocked in at least one run in eight of the past nine games and has a total of 13 during that stretch.
The Buccaneers reached Livingston for two runs in the top of the fourth. After allowing singles to the first two batters of the inning, Livingston got a pair of groundouts to plate one run, and Alex Reynolds singled in another to bring ETSU within 7-2.
The tallies ended a string of 32 1/3 innings in which Bulldog pitching did not allow an earned run. Last weekend at Georgia Southern, The Citadel gave up only two runs in 29 innings in a sweep of the Eagles but both were unearned.
The bullpen, which allowed only one hit in 8 1/3 innings in Statesboro, again came up big for the Bulldogs on Wednesday. Kevin Connell, James Reeves, Zach Sherrill and David Rivera each tossed one hitless inning with the only base runner for ETSU from innings five through eight being a hit batter by Sherrill in the seventh.
The Buccaneers did reach closer Skylar Hunter for two hits and a run in the ninth before he fanned Trey York for his second strikeout of the inning to close out the victory.
Mason Davis singled and scored in the second to extend his hitting streak to eight games while Bo Thompsondrew a walk in the same inning and has reached base in 37 consecutive contests. However, Jackson went 0-for-4 to snap his nine-game hitting streak and run of 20 straight games reaching base.
The Citadel returns to Southern Conference play this weekend with a three-game series at Riley Park against Appalachian State. The teams will begin the set on Friday at 6 p.m. followed by games on Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.
The Bulldogs enter the weekend with a 9-6 conference record, tied with Elon (12-6), Western Carolina (12-6) and College of Charleston (11-6) for the fewest losses in the league as the second half of SoCon play for The Citadel begins.