GREENVILLE — Connecticut pitchers recorded 19 strikeouts in topping East Carolina 3-2 in the American Athletic Conference opener for both clubs on Friday night.
The Huskies (14-9) scored once in the sixth and twice in the eighth. The Pirates (18-9) answered with a run in the sixth and scored once in the eighth.
Left-hander Tim Cate (2-1) pitched seven and one-third inning for UConn. He allowed five hits and one run, which was unearned. Cate walked two and struck out 13.
John Russell pitched the last one and two-thirds for his eighth save. Russell got all five outs on strikeouts. A hit batter and a walk put the potential tying run at second in the bottom of the ninth.
Cate and ECU sophomore right-hander Chris Holba were locked in a scoreless duel for five innings.
Chris Winkel singled for the Huskies in the sixth and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Keith Krueger. UConn took a 1-0 lead on an RBI single by Anthony Prato.
Travis Watkins led off with a double to left for ECU in the bottom of the sixth. He went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a throwing error.
Back-to-back doubles by Winkel and Krueger gave the Huskies a 2-1 lead in the eighth. An RBI single by Willy Yahn provided a 3-1 advantage for the visitors.
The Pirates loaded the bases in the eighth on a single by Watkins, followed by walks to Eric Tyler and Bryant Packard.
Watkins scored on a passed ball before a strikeout ended the threat.
Holba (3-1) absorbed his first loss of the season. He pitched seven and one-third innings, yielding eight hits. He allowed two runs, both earned, while striking out six without a walk.
The AAC opener was delayed for 52 minutes during the bottom of the eighth inning due to lightning.
Game two of the three-game series is scheduled for 4 p.m. today.