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Holba serves as Sunday stopper

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East Carolina's Chris Holba pitches against against Saint Joseph's at Clark LeClair Stadium on Sunday, March 4, 2018.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Instead of looking to continue weekend momentum for the No. 18 East Carolina baseball team, the Pirates turned to veteran pitcher Chris Holba on Sunday to produce another one of his steady outings and salvage a win at the Keith LeClair Classic.

Holba delivered, running his season-opening scoreless streak to 18 2/3 innings as the Pirates beat Saint Joseph’s 9-0 at Clark-LeClair Stadium in the LeClair Classic finale. Missouri State won the event with a 2-1 record, including a 7-4 victory over the Pirates on Saturday.

ECU (8-3) never trailed against St. Joe’s (2-5) and Holba secured the victory with ease. One week after he dominated North Carolina in Chapel Hill, the junior right-hander retired the first 11 Hawks and finished with eight strikeouts, no walks and three hits allowed in seven innings.

“This was kind of the first adversity that we’ve dealt with this year and I felt like today we handled it really well,” Holba said of ECU losing Friday and Saturday. “No one pointed fingers and we just got back to playing loose and doing what makes us successful.”

The Pirates’ key inning at the plate came in the bottom of the third after Bryant Packard, who was leadoff in the batting order and went 3-for-4 with four RBIs after a day off Saturday stemming from his offseason back issue, got to second base on a fielding error with one out. No. 2 hitter Turner Brown gave ECU its first lead of the weekend with an RBI single, and Spencer Brickhouse hit a double to highlight the frame.

Packard hit an RBI double in the sixth and three-run home run in the seventh to make it a rout. Designated hitter Jake Washer was 2-for-2 with two walks.

It was plenty of offense for Holba (3-0), who improved his strikeout-to-walk ratio for the season to 24-to-2 in calming fashion.

“When he’s on the mound right now, it just takes the pressure off the offense and allows you to get your feet underneath you,” coach Cliff Godwin said. “He’s putting up zeroes and you score runs and then he puts up more zeroes. It allows us to continue to gain momentum and keep putting pressure on the other team.”

South Central High School graduate Cam Colmore pitched the final two innings. D.H.Conley product and pitcher Davis Kirkpatrick played second base in the ninth and was smooth in fielding a ground ball and making the throw to first base for an assist.

“He’s a really good athlete and a quarterback in high school, so it was fun to see him out there,” Holba said.

Missouri State 8

Pepperdine 7

There was late drama in Sunday’s first game and Missouri State held on to secure the win and the LeClair title.

The Bears (6-3) scored four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning for an 8-4 lead, but Pepperdine threatened in the ninth and plated three runs before the final out to make it a n 8-7 deficit. The Waves (5-7), who won their first two games of the weekend, lost despite out-hitting MSU 14-9.

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

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