Ryder Giles played shortstop -- three separate times -- and pitcher -- twice -- as East Carolina held off William & Mary, 7-4, at Clark-LeClair Stadium on Sunday for a sweep on college baseball's opening weekend.
No. 21 ECU's revolving late-game substitutions with two-way players also included Zach Agnos going from starting third baseman to relief pitcher to shortstop and back to third base for the final inning, which was handled on the mound by pitcher Cam Colmore, and he retired the side in order with ease.
Giles, who finished 1-for-4 for a Pirate offense that posted a 13-8 advantage in hits, fired consecutive strikeouts with the bases loaded to end the top of the seventh inning with his team leading 5-2. It was 7-3 in the eighth when Giles was replaced on the mound by Agnos. Giles later went back to the mound from shortstop to protect a 7-4 edge, still in the eighth, and he delivered another clutch bases-loaded strikeout.
"The guy that he struck out the second time (Tyler Solomon), he also struck out the first time when he was in a bases-loaded situation," ECU coach Cliff Godwin said. "I just liked the matchup."
Godwin added this was the first time in his coaching career that he used a pitcher twice in a game. Rules allow for a pitcher to switch positions defensively and later go back to the mound as long as he remains in the active lineup. A player can't pitch three times in a game.
Pirate starting hurler Jake Kuchmaner threw 31 pitches, retiring six of the seven batters he faced in two innings while throwing a lot in the low 80 miles-per-hour range. The left-hander, who was the American Athletic Conference preseason pitcher of the year and has been dealing with arm soreness, did not yield a hit and walked one with two strikeouts.
"I just wanted to get back into the rhythm, because this was the second time I've been on the mound all spring," said Kuchmaner, whose breakout sophomore season in 2019 ended with a 7-2 record and 2.99 ERA. "With me and (pitching) coach (Jason) Dietrich, it was just about finding a flow and a rhythm with everything and get back into it."
ECU's relief unit consisted of Trystan Kimmel, Matt Bridges, Garrett Saylor, Giles, Agnos, Giles again and Colmore. All of the Pirate pitchers struck out at least one batter, including four each by Kimmel and Saylor in their respective 1.2-inning outings.
ECU got a boost from a three-run first inning and scored the first four runs of the game. The offense included Connor Norby (2-for-3, two RBIs, R) crushing a solo home run past the left field fence for a 5-2 lead in the sixth.
"I thought we had to scratch and claw today to kind of grind it out," Godwin said. "That was a good thing. A lot of guys in our bullpen got a lot of work this weekend, and some guys you didn't see this weekend you'll see on Wednesday (at Campbell). ... At East Carolina, you get to do both (pitch and hit), and what Ryder and Zach and Alec Burleson did this weekend, you just don't see that in college baseball."
Nick Barber entered the game at shortstop during the top of the seventh inning for Giles to pitch with a 5-2 lead.
When Agnos relieved Giles during the next inning, it returned Giles to shortstop and Barber went to first base for two-way All-American Burleson to shift from first to his starting spot in left field. Later in the eighth, with the Pirates up 7-4, Godwin opted for Agnos to play shortstop and Giles to go back to the mound and deliver his third strikeout with the bases loaded.
"We joked that it was kind of like a high school game," Giles said. "I've never seen in a college game something like that happen, but it's just whatever to get a win. It was a good weekend and a good team win today."
Agnos and Lane Hoover each went 2-for-4 at the top of the batting order. Thomas Francisco was 2-for-3 with two RBIs.
Jack Cone, the Tribe's leadoff hitter for the first two games of the series, served as its starting pitcher for Sunday. The Pirates hit him with five singles in the first, beginning with four straight coming from Agnos, Hoover, Burleson and Francisco for a 2-0 lead with no outs.
Giles' two separate mound appearances led to his final line of one inning pitched and two runs allowed on three hits with three strikeouts and no walks. Kuchmaner got the victory in a game that included 11 total pitchers.