Options emerge for Pirate bullpen
BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector
Monday, February 18, 2019
East Carolina baseball used eight different relief pitchers during its opening-weekend sweep of Radford, ranging from three freshmen making their debuts to seniors Sam Lanier and Evan Voliva closing out the Highlanders, 4-3, on Sunday at Clark-LeClair Stadium.
Fifth-year coach Cliff Godwin said he didn't learn much about his team during the series, but he did point out that right-hander reliever Ryder Giles was among the newcomers who looked poised. Giles, who also is an infielder, tossed a clean ninth inning during the season opener with one strikeout.
“(He) got out there and closed out a game in the ninth inning with a four-run lead and looked comfortable, but some of the other freshmen didn’t look as comfortable,” Godwin said.
Earlier in the game, former starter Trey Benton delivered 2.1 scoreless innings for the pitching victory. All three of the Pirates’ winning pitchers were relievers, including freshman Carter Spivey after he yielded two runs in two innings in a 15-9 win.
In all, the Pirate bullpen totaled 14 strikeouts and two walks. Even senior Zach Barnes, whose ERA was ballooned by a three-run home run during the ninth inning of Game 2, fanned four Highlanders without issuing a walk in his 2.2 innings of work.
Sunday starter Tyler Smith battle through 4.2 frames, and the Pirates trailed 3-1 in the fifth when Voliva took over on the mound. Voliva had one of the best outings of his career with five strikeouts while facing eight batters.
Sam Lanier was going for a two-inning save while Gavin Williams, the most likely starter for the Pirates on Wednesday at Campbell, and Giles were warming up at times in the bullpen. Godwin and pitching coach Dan Roszel stuck with Lanier during the ninth when Radford trailed 4-3 and had two runners on base with one out, and Lanier used a strikeout and fly out to end the game and series.
“Last year at times Sam got frustrated, but I’m super proud of (him and Voliva) because they are a testament to hard work and doing things the right way,” Godwin said. “Hard work does pay off, I just don’t know when it is going to happen.”
Williams did not pitch against Radford. Neither did fellow midweek starting option Jake Kuchmaner.
ECU is now No. 11 in both of college baseball’s major polls, moving up one spot in the Baseball America Top 25 on Monday from No. 12 to 11.
No other American Athletic Conference club is ranked by Baseball America or D1baseball.com, although Connecticut had an impressive opening weekend with a series win over top-10 Louisville from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
UCLA, which will host the Pirates for a weekend series in April, is ranked third by Baseball America and No. 4 by D1baseball.com. The top five in the D1baseball poll are Vanderbilt followed by LSU, Texas Tech, UCLA and Florida. North Carolina is sixth.
Campbell began its season at an invitational hosted by Coastal Carolina, starting with a 10-6 victory over Maryland before losing 8-7 to VCU and then 11-2 to Coastal Carolina on Sunday.
Junior college transfer Collin Wolfe thrived during his first action at the NCAA level. He posted a .444 batting average and two home runs during the weekend.
ECU beat the Camels in both meetings last season and owns a 68-25 advantage all-time in the series.
Contact Ronnie Woodward at firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.