Memphis’ Hunter Goodman is one of the most feared hitters in the American Athletic Conference, and he totaled three RBIs during Saturday’s game at Clark-LeClair Stadium, but East Carolina’s plethora of pitchers held him without a home run for the entire series and to zero RBIs in three of the four contests in an ECU sweep.
Goodman, who was a freshman All-American in 2019 and a year ago in a shortened season hit eight home runs with 31 RBIs in 17 games, went 0-for-4 with a strikeout in Sunday’s finale at No. 9 ECU. The Pirates won 7-1, pulling away from a pitchers’ duel between starters Tyler Smith and Chris Durham with a six-run bottom of the eighth inning.
Goodman was 2-for-8 combined with two strikeouts in Friday’s doubleheader. He hasn’t hit a homer since doing so on consecutive days March 20 and 21 against Middle Tennessee State.
“I wasn’t in the pitchers’ meetings, but we talked about not letting him beat us,” Pirate coach Cliff Godwin said. “As the weekend went on, we were like, ‘And don’t let (Alec) Trela beat us’ as well, because he got hot and he’s dangerous hitting the ball out of the park. Our pitchers pitched (Goodman) tough. He’s a great player, and our pitchers executed pitches and kept him off balance and moved the baseball around.
“Great players still find a way, like he did (Saturday) to manufacture some stuff, and he got a big swing off (C.J.) Mayhue. But our pitchers did a great job just keeping him in check.”
The sweep by the Pirates (26-5, 8-0 American Athletic Conference), who stayed at No. 9 in Monday’s D1Baseball.com Top 25, gave them an 18-game home winning streak.
Game 2 of the series versus Memphis (11-19, 1-7) was a 5-3 victory in which ECU relievers Matt Bridges, Cam Colmore and Mayhue went a combined 4.1 scoreless innings with seven strikeouts and no walks.
“I thought one of the turning points was when Cam came in and there’s a runner on second base and he was able to get one of their better hitters (Zach Wilson) to have a soft liner to (shortstop) Ryder (Giles), and then get another one of their better hitters (Goodman) to hit a ground ball to get us out of the inning,” Godwin said of the top of the seventh when the Pirates led 4-3. “That allowed us to keep the lead. I thought that was really the momentum swing.”
The pitching Sunday was highlighted by UM’s Durham throwing 102 pitches with nine strikeouts and being charged with three runs in seven-plus innings, and also Smith’s longest start of the season. Smith went 5.2 frames for his longest outing since 6.0 innings May 5, 2019 at Cincinnati, and he scattered seven hits to yield one run with three strikeouts and a walk.
Smith’s start versus Appalachian State on March 5 lasted 3.2 innings, which was followed in his next three starts of 4.2, 2.2 and 4.0 innings leading up to the Memphis series.
“I just wanted to be better than that guy on the other side, to be honest,” Smith said of pitching in a low-scoring game. “It’s just a mindset of going out there competing one pitch at a time and not thinking about anything else.”
ECU’s Bryson Worrell had a breakout weekend and earned American player of the week honors. He went from Feb. 27 through April 3 with one RBI, then had nine total in the four games. He hit a home run with three RBIs in each of Friday’s doubleheader games.
Colmore earned the pitching victory Sunday, giving him a 4-0 record along with Gavin Williams and Carson Whisenhunt.
The series finale featured home runs by Trela and ECU’s Ryley Johnson and Seth Caddell, which for Caddell was his team-best 10th that also is tied for first in the AAC. Connor Norby has nine HRs with a .442 batting average and will take an 18-game hit streak into East Carolina’s next series beginning Friday night at Houston.