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Pirates swipe midweek win

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East Carolina's Nick Barber, left, dives to steal home in front of Elon catcher Matt Oldham at Clark-LeClair Stadium on Wednesday.

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Alec Burleson’s prowess has been on display during the No. 11 East Carolina baseball team’ struggles over the past week. His offense and an encouraging outing by lead reliever Trey Benton helped the Pirates pick up a much-needed 5-3 needed win over Elon on Wednesday at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

Burleson hit a solo home run and finished 3-for-4 at the plate, Benton’s two scoreless innings backed up a solid start by Gavin Williams and Nick Barber even stole home for an early 4-2 edge.

ECU (6-3) lost one midweek game in all of 2018. It came into Wednesday with an 0-2 midweek record after losses to Campbell last week and Air Force on Monday.

“It was good, because we needed to get back to that edge that we had last year and the bullpen coming in and putting up zeroes,” said Benton, a former starter who lowered his season ERA from 5.79 to 4.05. “The biggest thing is just coming in and leaving the game where it is, and giving our hitters some more momentum.”

Freshman sidearmer Ryder Giles moved from third base to the pitcher’s mound to retire all three batters in the top of the ninth.

Williams (1-0), a 6-foot-6 right-hander who threw a lot of fastballs 92-94 miles per hour in his second career start, went five innings and gave up two runs on four hits. He struck out six batters and walked five. Benton had a fastball hit 95 mph.

But the most exciting play of the game came when Elon starter Jared Wetherbee was on the mound.

With the Pirates up 3-2 and one out in the bottom of the second, Nick Barber guided a double into the right field corner. Barber swiftly stole third base and even more craftily on an 0-1 pitch he took off for a steal of home after guidance by head coach and third-base coach Cliff Godwin. Barber dove in successfully for a 4-2 lead.

“I just kind of went for it,” Barber said. “That was my first time, and I’m going to guess it’s the last time.”

He became the first Pirate to steal home since Ben Fultz in 2012.

“The guy was slow to the plate,” Godwin said. “We’ve actually never practiced it before, but with a guy like Nick Barber who is plenty savvy, he knew exactly what to do. It was pretty awesome.”

Burleson’s home run to right field made it 5-2 in the sixth. Elon’s Ty Adcock hit a solo homer off Sam Lanier in the eighth.

The Pirates were sparked by leadoff batter Bryant Packard’s bunt single versus the shift, and they scored three runs in the frame on three hits. Jake Washer hit an RBI single and Giles had an RBI on a groundout.

Packard finished 1-for-3 with a walk and run scored. Spencer Brickhouse remained sidelined with tightness.

“We executed what we were trying to do tonight, one through nine in the lineup,” Godwin said.

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

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