Spencer Brickhouse and Bryant Packard being healthy and in the batting order every day has played a big role in East Carolina baseball’s surge since the start of March.
No hit was bigger Saturday than Brickhouse’s go-ahead, three-run home run to lift the Pirates to a 7-4 comeback victory over UCF at Clark-LeClair Stadium. The win, ECU’s ninth in its last 10 games, clinched an opening American Athletic Conference series victory for the 14th-ranked Pirates.
ECU (17-6, 2-0) had two outs and two runners on base in the bottom of the fifth inning when Brickhouse crushed a 2-1 pitch over the wall in the right field corner, delighting many of the season-high 4,128 fans in attendance, for a 5-3 lead.
“We depend on those guys pretty much every day,” ECU coach Cliff Godwin said of Packard and Brickhouse. “But everybody up and down the lineup … a lot of guys put up tough at-bats. … I also really appreciated the fans today and there was some big-time momentum, especially when they brought their reliever in and that allowed us to get a couple runs.”
Relievers Zach Barnes, Gavin Williams and Evan Voliva ensured that the Knights (15-8, 0-2) had only one hit — a single in the eighth — after a three-run first inning. Voliva retired the final six batters, two via strikeout during the ninth inning, for his second save.
All four of the Knights’ hits were singles.
“It was great to win a close game like this at home,” Voliva said. “It just goes to show that we can win all types of ways. We put up 13 runs yesterday and were able to win a close game today.”
Packard, Alec Burleson and Brickhouse each finished 2-for-4. Brickhouse and Bryson Worrell each scored two runs.
Burleson and Turner Brown hit RBI singles in the bottom of the eighth to create the final 7-4 margin.
Brickhouse has a hit in 11 of 12 games, upping his season batting average to .400. He was 3-for-5 with four RBIs Friday night in ECU’s 13-8 victory.
“(UCF starter Grant Schuermann) has a plus changeup and early in the game he was getting me out and off balance with it, but he hung one that one time,” Brickhouse said of Saturday’s go-ahead homer, the fourth of his junior year. “It gave us three runs to give us a little push to win the game.”
UCF led 3-0 after the first inning, forcing the Pirates to chip away at the early deficit. The hosts picked up two key runs in the bottom of the third, scoring on a sacrifice bunt by Ryder Giles and then Packard’s RBI single to make it 3-2.
Pirate starter Tyler Smith gave up three runs on three hits in 4.2 innings. Barnes (1-2) faced one batter, striking out Anthony George to end the fifth with Knights standings on third and second base and UCF leading 3-2.
ECU will go for the sweep in the series finale at noon today. The Pirates also swept Maryland last weekend.
“I was really proud of Tyler Smith because he could have really folded camp and we would have had to go to the bullpen earlier,” Godwin said. “We’ve been in this situation a few times year (leading a series 2-0), but I don’t think we’ve been in this situation against a team as quality as UCF. We’ll have our work cut out for us.”
Contact Ronnie Woodward at email@example.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.