Pirates fend off Seahawks in late innings
BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector
Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Facing the final five-game week of its regular season, East Carolina’s baseball team had to battle to knock off rival UNC Wilmington on Tuesday night at Clark-LeClair Stadium.
ECU’s 8-5 victory required much more late-inning drama than in the Pirates’ routine 9-1 win over the Seahawks in Wilmington on April 9.
The rematch, which lasted four hours and nine minutes, featured four ties after the fifth inning. No. 11 ECU (30-10) trailed 5-4 going into the bottom of the eighth before plating four runs on three hits in the frame to take the lead for good.
Bryant Packard’s third double of the night tied the game at 5-5 in the Pirate eighth. There were two outs when a fielding error by UNCW (20-22) plated two runs for the decisive play of the game.
“I think we stuck to our plan, and it paid off in the end,” said Packard, who finished 3-for-4 and scored three runs from his leadoff spot in the batting order.
UNCW had its losing streak extended to six games.
ECU will be back in action tonight at Old Dominion.
The Pirates scored in the first inning and led 1-0 until UNCW created ties of 1-1 in the sixth, 3-3 in the seventh and 4-4 in the eighth. Jackson Meadows’ RBI double in the top of eighth gave UNCW a brief 5-4 edge for the visitors’ only lead.
Meadows then made the crucial error in the bottom of the eighth on a bobbled ground ball hit to him at second base by Turner Brown with the bases loaded, two outs and the score tied 5-5. With ECU up 7-5, Alec Burleson’s run-scoring single plated Spencer Brickhouse for the final run.
Burleson moved from first base to the pitcher’s mound, and weekend starting pitcher Jake Kuchmaner played first base with two outs in the ninth. A base hit brought the tying run to the plate before Burleson got a lineout to complete the win.
Pirate starter Trey Benton threw 65 pitches and was in command in his planned short outing, tossing 3.1 scoreless innings with six strikeouts, no walks and four hits allowed. He lowered his season ERA to 4.01 in the no decision. His ERA was at a season-high 6.94 mark on March 10.
“If Trey Benton hadn’t been as sharp as he was, then we would have been in trouble,” Pirate coach Cliff Godwin said. “But I was really impressed with our resiliency by our offense. … The game was won in the eighth, when they put up two runs and then we put up four.”
Left-handed senior Justin Walke, a former Pitt Community College standout, started for UNCW for only his second start of the year. He gave up one run on three hits with three strikeouts and a walk in 4.1 frames.
ECU had a 30-9 record on April 21 last year. The Pirates finished 44-18 after hosting the NCAA Greenville Regional.
Godwin presented UNCW coach Mark Scalf, who is retiring at the end of this season, a commemorative bat before the first pitch. Scalf offered Godwin his first college coaching job as a volunteer assistant in 2003.
Pirate catcher Seth Caddell finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs and also was instrumental in UNCW ending its fourth and sixth frames with runners thrown out at home plate. Packard fired a ball in from left field to finish the top of the fourth, when Doug Angeli was initially ruled safe before a replay review overturned the call to a close out at the plate.
“I knew he was out because his hand literally was in my glove,” Caddell said.
Contact Ronnie Woodward at firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.