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Memphis-ECU series tied

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East Carolina's Trey Benton pitches during a game against Memphis Saturday, May 13, 2017.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, May 13, 2017

East Carolina gained ground on Memphis in the American Athletic Conference baseball standings with a rout Friday night, but right fielder Chris Carrier and the Tigers punched back Saturday to create what could end up being an important rubber matchup Sunday.

Carrier launched a three-run home run as part of a five-run Memphis inning and also prevented four runs with his glove in a 7-3 victory by the visiting Tigers on Saturday at Clark-LeClair Stadium. The Pirates (26-25, 5-15) scored all three of their runs in the eighth.

With the regular season now less than a week away from its conclusion, both teams came into Saturday with 26-24 overall records and are looking to avoid finishing last in the league.

Carrier’s three-run shot went well beyond the left field wall off pitcher Trey Benton and highlighted a five-run top of the third that included UM (27-24, 7-13) trying three straight bunts and ECU failing to complete clean plays to the tune of two throwing errors.

The Pirates had played near flawless defense for three weeks, making only one error during a 10-game stretch coming into Saturday.

“Their best player hit a three-run homer, but you can’t keep giving them free outs and we gave them at least three free outs that inning,” ECU coach Cliff Godwin said. “They scored five runs, and then offensively that puts you where you can’t do anything on the base paths and you sit back and swing. I thought we hit a lot of balls hard.”

Benton was pulled after a walk to start the top of the fourth, and he ended being charged with six runs (four earned) on three hits with two walks and a strikeout. Memphis sent 17 batters to the plate during the third and fourth frames combined, and 11 of them reached base.

“He looks tired, not just physically, but mentally,” Godwin said of Benton, a freshman who has been a weekend starter since the start of the year. “It’s wearing on him a little bit, but he has to dig deep and we have to make a decision to either pitch him next weekend (at Connecticut) or maybe not pitch him so he is ready for Clearwater (at the AAC tournament). We have to brainstorm, because he has thrown more innings than he has ever thrown in his life before.”

Not long after Carrier’s homer in the third, he stretched for an outstanding diving catch in the bottom of the frame for the third out. It prevented Travis Watkins from a likely two-run double that would have made it 5-2 Tigers.

It was 7-0 when Carrier, Memphis’ only player with a batting average above .300, made a leaping catch at the wall to take away a two-run Charlie Yorgen home run.

Memphis hurler Colton Hathcock, making his 24th appearance of the season but only his second start, went seven shutout frames.

Both clubs finished with 11 hits.

“That ball Travis hit in the right-center field gap, Carrier makes that web gem and he pretty much won game for them,” Godwin said.

Carrier’s blast was his 12th HR of the season.

The Pirate bullpen flourished late, led by Tyler Smith tossing three scoreless innings. Turner Brown was ECU’s top hitter, going 2-for-3 with two doubles.

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

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