The reality of an East Carolina baseball weekend sweep happened quickly Sunday, both in the form of starting pitcher Carson Whisenhunt and early runs by the Pirates.
No. 25 ECU scored three runs on three hits and an error in the first inning at Clark-LeClair Stadium, setting the tone for an eventual 12-4 victory over Rhode Island for the Pirates to start their season with a sweep. They led 3-2 before scoring once in the fifth and four more key runs in the sixth to put away the Rams, who committed eight errors and produced six hits in the series finale.
Whisenhunt struck out 10 batters, with one walk, and allowed two runs on three hits in four innings. This came one year and six days after his lone appearance last season was facing three batters and not recording an out with three runs allowed.
"Last year I was a lot more nervous and kind of felt I had to prove something that I didn't need to do," he said. "I felt like I did too much. This year I feel like I am just going out there and controlling what I can and filling up the zone and letting the defense work."
The second-year freshman left-hander struck out three Rams in the first and seven total during the first three innings, then fanned the side in order for the top of the fourth in dominant fashion. His fastball was consistently 91 or 92 mph, mixing with plenty of movement on effective off-speed and breaking pitches early in counts.
"I was really proud of Carson because he was dominant early ... and then things started testing him, and that's what happens when it's your first college start," coach Cliff Godwin said. "Things are not going to go as planned and you're not going to strike out the side every time. I was really happy when It became (runners on) first and third in a 3-2 game (in the third inning) and he went back-to-back strikeouts. That's a time where he's a freshman and it he could have went a different way, but I was super proud he ran off the field and was able to get out of that inning and give us one more. ... Starting pitching is supposed to give you a chance to win, and he gave us a chance to win."
He gave the ball to true freshman Danny Beal with ECU up 3-2 for the top of the fifth. Beal tossed a scoreless inning to earn the pitching victory, later getting protection from C.J. Mayhue and others.
More postgame notes and video:
- Mayhue, one of the Pirates' go-to relievers, pitched Friday and Sunday for a weekend total of: 3.0 IP, 3 Hs, 0 Rs, 0 BBs, 5 Ks.
- Rhode Island No. 5 hitter Mark Coley had the rare hitting performance of 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and a walk. Batting behind him was Max Mircovich, who went 0-for-4 with three Ks.
- ECU hosts Duke on Tuesday at 4 p.m. in a midweek matchup with likely some national attention.
- Pirate catcher Seth Caddell had a strong close to his opening weekend. He hit a solo home run Saturday and then Sunday was 2-for-3 with two runs scored, an RBI and a walk. Thomas Francisco batted cleanup again and finished 1-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI.
Zach Agnos sparked the hosts on Sunday with a game-high three RBIs, and he was one of ECU's relief pitchers. Skylar Brooks, also a two-way player who pitched, crushed a three-run home run in the eighth.
- Christian Smallwood started at designated hitter and in the No. 9 spot in the ECU order. He went 0-for-3, reaching on an error in his last at-bat.