Pirates stop streak in dominant fashion
BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
East Carolina baseball has hit the reset button.
The Pirates started a new week — and stopped a seven-game losing streak — on Tuesday night by beating UNC Wilmington 10-2 at Clark-LeClair Stadium. ECU got a near-perfect outing from seldom-used starting pitcher Kirk Morgan and two big offensive rallies, including 10 at-bats in the first inning that produced four runs.
According to coach Cliff Godwin, the team’s “reset button” goes back further than just the seven-game skid that was the longest by the Pirates in nearly a decade.
“We really want to put the first 33 games behind us, to be quite honest with you,” said Godwin, who was a freshman on the 1998 East Carolina squad that dropped nine straight games. “Even though we’ve played well at some times, it’s been tough and it’s been hard. ... It’s definitely been tough and our kids have handled it tremendously, so we just need to reset and stay in the present moment.”
Godwin added that Chris Holba, who was hit with a line drive in the face Friday at Houston, is looking at surgery and being out long-term, but that senior projected ace Evan Kruczynski could return from injury later this week.
ECU was held to three runs or less in six straight contests until losing 9-6 to Houston on Sunday and following that with Tuesday’s outburst.
The first inning featured a three-run home run by Luke Bolka, and ECU finished with a 12-4 advantage in hits.
Morgan retired the first 14 UNCW (13-18) batters before a walk with two outs in the top of the fifth followed by a ground ball single through the left side. It was the first hit Morgan yielded in his first 7.2 innings of his senior year — spanning two straight midweek starts — and he ended up giving up a run during the inning before Matt Bridges came on as the first Pirate reliever.
The right-handed Morgan, who throws mainly in the mid-80s, improved his career record to 6-0 in four-career starts. He went 4.2 frames and allowed one run on two hits with three strikeouts and a walk.
Joe Ingle pitched the ninth and yielded the Seahawks’ other run.
“I’m a hitter at heart, but when they ask me to pitch I’m going to come in and just throw strikes and I just want to give us a chance to win,” Morgan said. “I think tonight with four runs in the first inning, that was awesome and I could exhale.”
It was 5-1 after the top of the fifth and there were two outs in the bottom-half when Bryce Harman chopped a two-run single up the middle to spark a big Pirate surge. The next three at-bats were an Eric Tyler RBI double, a Charlie Yorgen RBI single and a Travis Watkins run-scoring single to make it 10-1.
Bolka provided the big blast for a balanced ECU offensive effort. Tyler, who has reached base in 20 straight games, and Wes Phillips each had two hits.
“We’re just trying to stay as present as possible and forget about the past,” Bolka said. “It felt good to be able to throw a punch early in the game. Obviously we can’t change anything we did before, so we’re just moving on and trying to stay in the moment.”
Contact Ronnie Woodward at firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.