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ECU-USF series tied, heats up

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East Carolina right fielder Dwanya Williams-Sutton leaps for a catch over the wall against South Florida on April 14, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, April 14, 2018

East Carolina baseball is headed for another rubber match, and this one could be the most intense yet after South Florida evened things at Clark-LeClair Stadium on Saturday with a 13-1 victory.

No. 7 ECU is 4-0 this season in rubber games and 8-0 in Game 3s of a series.

The Pirates (26-8, 5-3 American Athletic Conference) hit four home runs and routed USF 15-2 on Friday, but it was the Bulls (22-13, 6-5) who powered to the Game 2 win behind three home runs and 16 hits.

Intensity heightened during Joe Genord’s at-bat against hard-throwing freshman pitcher Gavin Williams with USF leading 3-1 in the top of the seventh inning. There were words exchanged between the two when Genord was out of the batter’s box and the next pitch was sent back to right-center field for a two-run home run.

Genord again took his time getting out of the box to watch the homer and turned around to exchange words with ECU infielders near second base during the home run trot, which brought out Pirate coach Cliff Godwin and players and coaches from both dugouts. The umpires issued a warning to both teams.

“If it was professional baseball, he would have gotten smoked in his next at-bat, but you get ejected and get suspended,” Godwin said. “I wouldn’t let my players act like that, but I’m not the head coach for South Florida. They do what they want to do and we do what we do, but I wouldn’t let my players act like that and we just have to focus on us.”

USF poured it on late, including a six-run top of the ninth, but it was Bulls starting pitcher Peter Strzelecki who controlled most of the game. He went the distance for the second complete game of his senior year, giving up a solo home run by Turner Brown for one of the Pirates’ five hits.

“Any time you hit a home run you kind of want to spark everybody, but today just wasn’t our day I guess you can say,” Brown said. “We just have to get ready to go tomorrow.”

ECU starter Tyler Smith had a short outing of three innings in which USF scored three runs in the top of the first, one of which was unearned because of a throwing error by Brown.

Smith, who is 5-1 after his first loss, plunked the leadoff batter and the Bulls used four well-placed singles to produced their three runs. Two of the hits were infield singles.

Brown lofted a leadoff homer to right field in the third, cutting the deficit to 3-1, but that was as close as the Pirates got to the lead. Bryant Packard finished 1-for-3 to extend his streak to 12 games.

ECU used seven pitchers, but lead relievers Ryan Ross and Davis Kirkpatrick have yet to pitch this weekend and should be fully available for the series finale. Trey Benton will start for East Carolina and be opposed by Collin Sullivan in a matchup of sophomore right-handers.

“We have two good teams going at it, and we knew that they would respond after last night,” Godwin said. “That was a tremendous performance by Strzelecki. ... What he did was very good and it was tough once we got down three, but once we got down more than three, it was going to be hard to try and manufacture runs.”

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

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