The same La Salle team that battled East Carolina into the late innings on Friday looked more like the Bad News Bears on Sunday. La Salle pitchers couldn’t find the strike zone and suffered through a long day in the series finale.
The Explorers came to town this weekend in search of their first win of the season. That search will continue into this week after a Pirate sweep.
ECU exploded for 8 runs in the bottom of the first to clinch that sweep on Sunday. The eight runs were more than enough to spark freshman Trey Benton to the victory on the mound.
Benton struck out a career-high 10 batters over five scoreless innings as ECU took the finale, 12-1. He struck out the side in the second and third innings.
For Benton, his performance at Clark-LeClair Stadium was a nice bounce back after a disappointing outing in game three of the previous weekend’s series at Ole Miss. The Pirates came out on the short end of three close games in a row in Oxford.
Benton said the game plan he and pitching coach Dan Roszel developed worked to perfection against La Salle.
“We didn’t want to get into three-ball counts,” said Benton. “We worked on a lot of breaking stuff this week. At Ole Miss I was coming off the breaking ball but we got that corrected.”
La Salle botched a first baseman to pitcher putout that would have limited East Carolina to just three runs in that first inning instead of the eight the Pirates plated.
Those eight runs gave the freshman pitcher all the confidence in the world.
“It did,” said Benton. “But you have to still go out there and compete. That’s what they keep telling me, to compete no matter what the score is.”
ECU coach Cliff Godwin agreed.
“It was a great way to start and it took some pressure off our freshman, Trey Benton,” said Godwin. “He went out there and knew he had plenty of run support.”
The lines score for the finale was a bit odd. The Pirates had half as many hits (6) as they did runs (12). It’s the runs that matter to the Pirate coach.
“Twelve runs, I’ll take that,” said Godwin. “That’s all we care about. It makes it more difficult when you’re up there taking pitches all of the time. We got a lot of guys in the game, which I care about because those guys work hard every day and they deserve playing time.”
ECU routed Campbell 10-0 last Wednesday. Next up the Pirates look to make it five in a row as Elon pays a midweek visit.
“Elon always plays us tough,” said Godwin. “They have played us touch since I was playing here. We are going to have to come out and play our best baseball if we want to get a win.”
The national rankings continue to be kind to ECU. Baseball America ranked the Pirates 9th this week for the team’s highest ranking.
D1baseball.com has ECU at No. 18.
After the Pirates host the Phoenix on Wednesday, they’ll turn their focus to this weekend’s LeClair Classic featuring Western Carolina, St. John’s and Appalachian State.
“The LeClair Classic is always emotional,” said Coach Godwin. “To see Lynn (widow of Keith LeClair) and the children come back and throw out the first pitch to honor their dad, it really means a lot. And this year Western Carolina comes in. That’s Keith’s alma mater and where he coached before coming to ECU.”
The Pirates will face the Catamounts on Friday, then will take on the Red Storm on Saturday and the Mountaineers on Sunday.
It should be a great weekend of baseball.
You have to think Coach LeClair would be proud of his former player, Cliff Godwin, and the job he has done at ECU.