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Mercer sweeps doubleheader at ECU

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Turner Brown (8) is greeted by teammates as he heads to the dugout during Game 2 against Mercer on Friday night.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, March 18, 2017

There were plenty of momentum swings Friday at Clark-LeClair Stadium as East Carolina and Mercer began their weekend baseball series with a doubleheader, and it was the most important swings that went to Mercer for a rare set of losses by the Pirates.

After a high-scoring, back-and-forth contest favored Mercer late in a 10-7 victory for the visiting Bears, the teams were locked in a tight battle until Mercer pulled away again on ECU’s bullpen for a 7-5 win and a sweep.

It marked the first time the Pirates were swept in a doubleheader at home since UCLA did it in 2009.

Bryce Harman hit a two-run single with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning of the nightcap for a 4-2 ECU (13-6) advantage. The Bears (16-4) then rallied against starting pitcher Trey Benton and closer Joe Ingle for four runs in the top of seventh and a 6-4 lead.

Top relievers Ingle, Sam Lanier and Matt Bridges each gave up three runs in their outings Friday for No. 8 ECU. Lanier and Bridges pitched in Game 1, when the Pirates couldn’t hold on to three separate two-run advantages.

The series finale is scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m.

“They better dig deep because they are going to keep going back out there, because they are our guys,” ECU coach Cliff Godwin said of the bullpen. “They are the same guys that closed out regional and super regional games last year. This game is hard, it’s not always easy, and they have to figure out how to start getting some people out.”

Spencer Brickhouse helped stake the Pirates to a 2-1 lead in the second inning of Game 2 with a solo home run. The freshman also homered in the opening contest.

Benton went six-plus innings and was charged with three runs on five hits while striking out eight. Ingle gave up three runs in 2/3 of a frame.

“When you are a starting pitcher your job is to give the team a chance to win, and both our guys did that,” Godwin said of Benton and Jake Agnos, both freshmen.

Mercer 10, East Carolina 7

JT Thomas provided the big blow to East Carolina with a two-run home run in the top of the ninth to spark Mercer’s victory in Game 1. It was 7-7 going into the ninth.

Bridges and Lanier each allowed three runs after Agnos went 5 2/3 innings and gave up four runs on five hits with five strikeouts and one walk. Lanier pitched one frame and Bridges went two.

The Pirates scored a total of five runs during the fourth through sixth innings, but they left the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh and eighth.

Singles by Turner Brown and Travis Watkins in the ECU eighth were followed by a strikeout and walk to fill the bags. Mercer lead reliever Robert Broom (2-1) fanned Kirk Morgan and T.J. Riles to keep the score at 7-7.

“Everybody is going to point the finger at the pitching, but we had plenty of opportunities to score more runs,” Godwin said. “If we knock those guys in, it’s probably a different story. It’s a team effort and nobody needs to point the finger at anybody.”

Bridges (0-1) was cruising with six straight batters retired until Charlie Madden drew a two-out walk in the top of the ninth. Thomas followed by lining the go-ahead homer to left field for his second round-tripper of the game.

Brickhouse sent a two-run, opposite-field home run to the left field corner in the bottom of the fifth to make it 5-3 Pirates. ECU also led 2-0 in the first inning and 7-5 after the sixth.

Brickhouse was 3-for-5 with two RBIs. Charlie Yorgen, Brown and Watkins each had two hits.

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

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