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No. 11 Pirates complete opening sweep

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East Carolina fans cheer during Friday's game against Radford at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Facing cold temperatures and an early deficit at Clark-LeClair Stadium, there were times Sunday when things could have gotten away from East Carolina’s baseball team.

The Pirates battled, however, and rallied during the middle and late innings to beat Radford 4-3 and complete an opening weekend sweep of the Highlanders.

No. 11 ECU trailed 3-0 after three innings. It was 3-3 in the bottom of the seventh when Jake Washer sneaked a grounder into left field with two outs to score pinch runner Christian Jayne from second base for the go-ahead run.

Sam Lanier took over on the pitcher’s mound to begin the eighth, replacing Evan Voliva after Voliva struck out five batters in 2.1 scoreless innings while yielding one hit, and Lanier shut the door for the second save of his career and first since 2017.

“The most important thing is we got three wins, because it is very hard to sweep teams,” Pirate coach Cliff Godwin said. “No matter who it is, just look around the country.”

Washer (2-for-2, two RBIs, BB) was the Pirates’ main offensive threat on a cold and wet day that didn’t include Bryant Packard in his usual leadoff spot in the lineup because of a sore hand from running into the left field wall Friday.

“He just bruised his palm and, look, he could have went if it were in May, but it’s dumb to try to make him go in these conditions,” Godwin said. “He wanted to play, but I just told him it was a no-go today. I think I’m pretty confident he’ll be ready for Wednesday (at Campbell).”

Brady Lloyd and Chandler Jenkins each hit an RBI groundout in the bottom of the sixth to create the 3-3 tie. Spencer Brickhouse finished with two walks and two runs scored.

The Pirates (3-0) were held to four singles off freshman hurler Cole Dunn through the first five frames. Their lone run during that span came on a sacrifice fly hit by Washer to plate Brickhouse, making it 3-1 Highlanders in the fourth.

ECU, which did not have a defensive error, still finished with an 8-6 advantage in hits.

Voliva needed to face only eight batters to record a career-high five strikeouts, including one to end the top of the fifth with two runners on base in relief of starter Tyler Smith. Radford (0-3) was leading 3-1 when the Pirates turned to Voliva.

“You can kind of run your fastball in there, because guys don’t really want to get jammed on a cold day like this,” said Voliva, a fifth-year senior from Currituck. “At the end of the day, if you throw strikes then it doesn’t matter what the conditions are because you’ll come out on top.”

Smith allowed three runs — two earned — in 4.2 innings. He struck out three batters and walked two.

“He could have really lost it, but he only gave up three runs and he got a big double play ball with the bases loaded (during the third inning),” Godwin said. “If we get down 5-0 there, then it is probably a different ballgame.”

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

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