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Seniors power Pirates in finale

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East Carolina catcher Travis Watkins (19) bumps helmets with teammates after hitting one of his home runs Tuesday night against Campbell at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

East Carolina’s batting order Tuesday night in the Pirates’ final home game of the season featured six seniors to make up two-thirds of the nine-man senior class that is maybe the most accomplished in school history.

The seniors accounted for 11 total RBIs in ECU’s 14-6 win against Campbell to complete a 20-14 home slate. Fifth-year senior catcher Travis Watkins, who has one of the biggest hits ever by a Pirate with a home run to beat Virginia a year ago in the NCAA Charlottesville Regional, led the way with home runs in his first two at-bats, and he finished 3-for-3 with four runs scored and three RBIs. Charlie Yorgen and Luke Bolka also hit homers in their final game at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

“I would be lying if (I said) we weren’t out there trying to hit home runs in our last (at-bat),” said Watkins, who hit his two home runs during the early innings, but Yorgen did go deep in his final swing in a home game. “But it was just fun out here and it’s like we’ve always said that these are guys that are going to be best friends for the rest of our life. To come out here and compete at Clark-LeClair for one last time was special.”

There were four lead changes, and ECU (28-25) took the lead against the Camels (23-29) for good on Bolka’s three-run shot to deep left field off Alex Yarem for the Pirates to take a 7-5 edge to the sixth. It was 14-6 after a four-run bottom of the seventh.

“That was a fun game and I enjoyed every second of it, just being out there with my best friends,” Yorgen said. “It was awesome and to win makes it even better. This place is special to all of us and it means more than most people probably think it does.” 

Chris Holba (4-1) got the pitching victory. Wearing a facemark and making his first appearance since getting hit in the face with a line drive on April 7 at Houston, the sophomore right-hander nearly struck out the side with nine pitches in the fifth, but ended up giving up two runs due in part to a controversial call in which first baseman Bryce Harman missed touching the bag for a potential third out.

It was 5-4 Campbell when Bolka’s HR came in the bottom of the frame. Watkins and Turner Brown both got on base with singles.

Bolka finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs.

Senior Kirk Morgan started for ECU and pitched three scoreless innings.

About 20 minutes after the Pirate seniors were recognized and caught a ceremonial first pitch from a family representative, Watkins lifted a two-run home run to the left field corner for a 2-0 edge. Watkins also hit a solo homer in the fourth.

“It is emotional and these guys have meant a lot to our program for the last three years,” ECU coach Cliff Godwin said. “I hope the fans don’t get lost in the shuffle about the way this season has gone. They are not happy about it and I am not happy about it, but what these guys have done the past few years has been about putting East Carolina baseball back on the map.

“The only reason why we were preseason top-10 is because of those seniors.”

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

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