Many of the things that East Carolina did right in taking the series from then 6th-ranked North Carolina disappeared in the first two games of the annual Keith LeClair Classic.
The Pirates dropped the first two games, falling 12-2 to Pepperdine and then losing to No. 28 Missouri State, 7-4.
Pepperdine took the opener by scoring eight runs in the 9th to blow open a close game.
ECU head coach Cliff Godwin didn’t mince words when he spoke to the media after Friday’s game.
“We didn’t come ready to play today,” said Godwin. “The guys looked at the score from the Campbell-Pepperdine game (won by Campbell, 15-2) and thought we could just roll the balls out there and win. The best team doesn’t always win, it’s the team that plays the best that wins and Pepperdine played way better than we did.”
Saturday’s loss will result in changes for the ECU pitching rotation. Jake Agnos struggled in his third consecutive start, giving up three runs, all earned, on four hits with three walks and two strikeouts in 2.1 innings.
“I thought we were ready to play tonight,” said Godwin. “Obviously, Jake has continued to struggle and we have to get a better start when you are facing an ace like Dylan Coleman. It’s just tough when you are fighting offensively to scratch across a run and then you go give up a run and keep doing that.”
Godwin also mentioned that Agnos would start Wednesday’s game against College of Charleston, and that the Pirates would promote someone else to the Saturday role.
Godwin hates to lose more than anyone that I know. He took the time to quote his old coach, and the tournament’s namesake after the loss.
“It’s a long season and we are 7-3”, said Godwin. “Coach [Keith] LeClair used to say the season is a marathon, not a sprint. We just need to be ready to go tomorrow and play our best baseball.”
The Pirates were much better on Sunday, led by right-hander Chris Holba. Holba has been nothing short of brilliant so far this season, and his seven shutout innings were just what the doctor ordered on Sunday afternoon in a 9-0 win over St. Joseph’s.
The junior struck out eight batters for the third time this season. For the second time of the season he didn’t allow a walk. That kind of consistency in his three starts all-star-caliber pitching.
Holba induced 12 ground outs and two fly outs to go along with his pair of strikeouts in the 3rd, 4th and 7th innings. He retired 11-straight batters to start the game before he allowed a baserunner on a wild pitch strikeout. He then retired eight more from the end of the fourth to the sixth when he gave up his third hit of the contest.
“I thought we played okay last night, just not good enough to win,” said Godwin said of the Saturday loss before turning his attention to the team’s performance on Sunday. “We came out with a lot of energy and had some quality at-bats throughout the lineup. Chris Holba was outstanding today and when he is on the mound it takes the pressure off the offense. He puts up zeroes and then we score runs and he comes right back out with more zeroes, it allows the team to gain some momentum.”
The Pirates dropped two out of three in the LeClair Classic, but at 8-3 and with two wins over North Carolina to date, one would have to say the season is off to a good start.
Next up are a pair of mid-week home games with College of Charleston, and then a three-game road series at Charlotte.
The Cougars come to town at 10-2 and riding a seven-game winning streak. College of Charleston swept Georgia this past weekend.
Charlotte is 8-4 on the season and undefeated at home. The 49ers swept Sienna this past weekend.
The schedule is difficult, but one that should help this team get ready for American Athletic Conference play later this month.
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