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Tyler using strategy to his advantage

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East Carolina third baseman Eric Tyler has a hit in 38 of the Pirates' 45 games this season.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Friday, May 5, 2017

There was a time when Eric Tyler’s bunts would be too easily fielded by the opposing pitcher.

After years of drills at practice and work with East Carolina baseball hitting coach Jeff Palumbo, now Tyler has the mindset that a “bad bunt” will roll left for a foul ball instead of right to the pitcher for an out.

Bunting down the third base line for a hit has helped Tyler, a third baseman himself, this season. He leads the Pirates (24-21, 4-11 American Athletic Conference), who begin their series at South Florida today, with a .361 batting average, although most of his damage in recent weeks has been from full swings.

There is strategy involved in Tyler’s offensive approach, and knowing when to bunt and when to swing away is a key element.

“Earlier this year, it just started clicking and it’s something I like to use as a weapon,” Tyler said Wednesday before practice. “If the third baseman is back and it’s a hit then I’ll take the hit. And if they are looking for it and they come in expecting the bunt now, then it can open up the left side of the field.”

Tyler was the most recent AAC hitter of the week and he has reached safely in 31 straight games. He has at least one hit in 38 of ECU’s 45 contests.

“The percentages to bunt for a hit are easier than to swing the bat and get a hit, so he’s really used that to his advantage this year,” Pirate coach Cliff Godwin said.

Tyler expanded on the strategy involved, saying that having full confidence in the decision to bunt or not has been something that has taken time for him to develop over the years.

“We have a system now and if I’m going to do it, then I have to be 100 percent in that I can get it down and beat it out,” he said.

WEEKEND WATCH

Davis Kirkpatrick, East Carolina: The best outing of Kirkpatrick’s junior season came last Friday when the right-hander and Greenville native pitched 2.2 scoreless innings with three hits allowed, one walk and two strikeouts. It tied for his longest outing of the season, and helped the Pirates finish off a 15-8 victory to start a 2-1 weekend versus Tulane in Greenville. Kirkpatrick has not pitched since then, but could get another big opportunity out of the bullpen this weekend.

Luke Borders, South Florida: USF (34-10, 9-6) has three of the top five hitters in the conference in terms of batting average. Kevin Merrell is the leader at .403, but it is the designated hitter Borders who might be the Bulls’ most dangerous batter from the No. 3 spot in the lineup. Borders is batting .356 with six home runs and he leads the American with 44 RBIs. During league-only games, he has excelled with a .435 average.

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

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