Moving parts still in Pirate outfield
By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector
Thursday, May 16, 2019
East Carolina used seven different outfielders in Tuesday’s come-from-behind win to beat Campbell 4-3 and begin a four-game final week of the regular season.
The starting lineup for the No. 7 Pirates began with Bryant Packard at designated hitter, Alec Burleson in left field, Bryson Worrell playing center field and speedy Lane Hoover in right. Finishing the game in the outfield were Worrell playing left, infielder Nick Barber in center field and Chandler Jenkins at his natural right field position.
Burleson and Hoover both left the game in pain, leaving them day-to-day as they are evaluated. The Pirates lost the DH during their series of substitutions, which included Burleson and third baseman Ryder Giles pitching in relief.
Taking over for Hoover, who crashed his upper body onto the infield dirt while charging in and tumbling for a catch during the top of the first, was Jenkins. Worrell and Jenkins both stepped up in their secondary roles with home runs.
“There was a lot of toughness and just being gritty and never stopping,” said Jenkins, who led off the bottom of the ninth with a single and finished 2-for-4 to up his season batting average to .194 in 36 at-bats as a senior. “You just have to come in and give it your best and stick to the approach.”
ECU (40-12, 18-3 American Athletic Conference) thriving despite big bats Packard, Burleson and Spencer Brickhouse not being fully healthy at times has been a season-long theme.
Packard, who has served as the designated hitter the last two games with a leg issue, could see action in the outfield or East Carolina could continue with fluid combinations during the final three-game series against Memphis (26-24, 9-11). Today’s first pitch at Clark-LeClair Stadium is set for 6:30 p.m.
“(Burleson) couldn’t pitch off the mound and he couldn’t swing a bat,” coach Cliff Godwin said Tuesday night of the left-hander who pitched two-thirds of an inning and then was hit by a pitch on the arm while batting in the bottom of the sixth and was pinch hit for during his next at-bat. “It wasn’t that I didn’t want him to hit, but he just couldn’t swing the bat.”
ECU, which already has clinched the AAC regular season championship, also is monitoring valuable reliever Sam Lanier dealing with arm soreness.
Tuesday’s victory gave the Pirates 40 wins in the regular season for the first time under Godwin, who is in his fifth season in charge at his alma mater. ECU finished 44-18 a year ago after winning the AAC tournament and going 1-2 in the NCAA Greenville Regional.
The Pirates are working to complete an NCAA top-eight overall seed resume, and they could achieve even more milestones this weekend, including beating Louisville’s all-time best 19-5 American record in 2014.
“We always talk about (winning 40 games) as a goal every season and we’ve knocked down two of our goals in winning the conference in the regular season and getting to 40 wins during the regular season,” Godwin said. “It’s pretty awesome. My hats off to our guys and the support staff.”
Colton Neel, Memphis: Neel has a .295 batting average and three home runs, but he also is one of the better relief pitchers in the AAC with nine saves and a 0.52 ERA in 17.1 innings. Only one of the left-hander’s relief outings has lasted longer than one inning.
Jake Agnos, East Carolina: The Pirates’ ace pitcher has not allowed a run in 26 innings and will be looking to stay sharp and possibly continue his scoreless streak heading into next week’s conference tournament in Clearwater, Fla.
Contact Ronnie Woodward at email@example.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.