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Benton gets Friday nod

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Trey Benton

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Friday, February 9, 2018

The East Carolina baseball team is strategically using its pitchers on this final preseason weekend to set up its starting rotation for a week from now in a three-game series against Western Carolina.

Sophomore right-hander Trey Benton was a starter in Friday’s scrimmage at Clark-LeClair Stadium, confirming that the Pirates are planning to use him on opening day followed by sophomore lefty Jake Agnos and junior right-hander Chris Holba, assuming that Holba checks out OK on Sunday after resting recently with some arm soreness.

Head coach Cliff Godwin and pitching coach Dan Roszel also have recently mentioned Tyler Smith, Alec Burleson and Gavin Williams as starting options. Williams, a hard-throwing freshman who has been impressive since joining the Pirates, should in the mix for saves out of the bullpen.

Benton was the Pirates’ leader in 2017 in innings pitched (71.0) and strikeouts (74). He posted a 3-4 record with a 4.18 ERA.

ECU opens against WCU and has a midweek game at Campbell before a key three-game weekend series against North Carolina.

Also from Friday’s scrimmage:

- Freshman first baseman/pitcher Alec Burleson continues to prove that he will be a prominent player on this team. He made a nice defensive play on a bunt drill and hit an opposite-field home run to left field off Benton.

- It was kind of difficult to completely tell with the lineups and starting innings with different situations, but it appeared that Turner Brown was the leadoff hitter for one team and Nick Barber on the other squad. Look for Brown and Bryant Packer to be key table-setters in the batting order next weekend.

- The catchers — freshman Seth Caddell and sophomore Jake Washer — looked strong offensively and make good contact at the plate. Caddell pulled a double down the left field line. They both were tested behind the plate and how they handle that part of the position and the pitching staff will probably have its ups and down during the season, but they have powerful bats.

- Speaking of that, and I’m not sure if this was because it was just a scrimmage or not, but the Pirates were active on the base paths. A good amount of stolen base attempts and pickoff attempts by the pitchers.

- I didn't focus much on the pitchers, but Tyler Smith started opposite Benton and was in control during the early innings. He had a smooth three-inning outing. 

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

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