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Pirate offense shows late life

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ECU's Nick Barber, right, gives a high-five to Eric Tyler as Tyler comes off the field after a win against Appalacian State at Clark-LeClair Stadium on Sunday, March 5, 2017.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Stellar performances from freshmen pitchers Trey Benton and Jake Agnos might have paved the way for East Carolina baseball’s weekend sweep at the Keith LeClair Classic, but the victories would not have been possible without clutch hitting from the Pirates.

ECU (8-3) will take an eight-game win streak into today’s game at College of Charleston — the first of a two-game set during East Carolina’s spring break — thanks to three close wins against Western Carolina, St. John’s and Appalachian State during the LeClair Classic in Greenville. During the seventh, eighth and ninth innings combined in those contests, the Pirates outscored their opponents 2-1, 4-1 and 3-0.

Coach Cliff Godwin pointed out the difference during those victories compared to the season’s opening weekend, when the Pirates held leads in all three contests against Mississippi but left Oxford, Miss., with no wins for an 0-3 start to the year.

“Coach (Gary) Overton just said (on the radio) that we looked like we were at our best when the game was on the line, so maybe we learned something from Ole Miss because we weren’t at our best when the game was on the line, I didn’t think, down there,” Godwin said Sunday after his squad’s 4-0 win over Appalachian State to clinch a fifth straight LeClair Classic title.

ECU owns a .282 team batting average, compared to a .218 mark by its opponents. The Pirates also have 63 RBIs, which is more than double their opponents with 28.

Senior third baseman Eric Tyler said Benton did his part in a major way Sunday by “keep(ing) throwing up zeroes until the (Pirates’) big inning.” East Carolina scored three runs in the seventh for a 4-0 cushion.

On Saturday against St. John’s in a battle of ranked teams, the Pirates broke a 3-3 tie in the eighth with a four-run rally. After Travis Watkins scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch, pinch hitter Brady Lloyd and leadoff man Charlie Yorgen drew walks before a big two-run double from Turner Brown.

T.J. Riles provided a two-run double Sunday during the seventh inning.

“We told you guys in the preseason that we are deeper than we have ever been, and we wanted to prove it this first month,” Tyler said of the Pirate offense. “We have 35 captains on this team. That’s the way we look at it, so every guy is ready and has stepped up so far. It’s been a real team effort these first 11 games.”

The rankings

ECU moved up in a few national polls Monday, including going from ninth to No. 8 in the Baseball America rankings and No. 13 to No. 10 by Perfect Game.

D1baseball.com kept ECU at No. 18.

The rotation

East Carolina might be without ace pitcher Evan Kruczynski this week, when the Pirates play five games in six days. Kruczynski was hit in the ankle with a line drive in the first inning Friday and left during the third frame. 

Godwin said Sunday that his status will be monitored on a day-to-day basis this week.

With Chris Holba in line to start today and Benton and Jacob Wolfe on the weekend against Charlotte, other potential options to fill out a five-man rotation include Agnos, Tyler Smith, Sam Lanier and even closer Joe Ingle if needed.

“We are not going to push him,” Godwin said of Kruczynski. “If he is not 100 percent, he is not going to pitch on Friday.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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