In front of the largest Clark-LeClair Stadium crowd of the season, the East Carolina baseball team defeated the Duke Blue Devils 6-1 on the force of two powerful three-run innings Wednesday night. The 4,744 Pirate fans who witnessed the win also constituted the 15th largest attendance in the ballpark’s history.
“4,700 screaming, that’ll get you going a little bit,” said junior Bryant Packard, who went 2-for-4 with one RBI and one run in the win. “It makes it hard on their pitchers. Their pitcher (starter Cooper Stinson) was a freshman, I’m sure it rattled him a little bit. Just having that, especially in a midweek game on a Wednesday, is huge.”
It was the 22-6 Pirates’ tenth straight win and a redemption of their March 12 trip to Durham, when they fell to the Blue Devils 7-2. ECU hasn’t lost a game since that defeat at Duke.
All of the Pirate runs came in the fifth and sixth innings, with three in each frame.
The pivotal fifth inning rally started when senior Brady Lloyd hit a solo home run that just barely stretched over the fence into the Jungle. It was the first extra-base hit of the season for Lloyd, who was First Team All-Conference for the American last season.
“It it goes over one inch, it’s a home run,” said head coach Cliff Godwin. “I was happy for Brady because he’s hit a lot of balls hard this year, but he hasn’t had much luck.”
“I was just looking for a fast ball and swung as hard as I could at it and got it over the fence,” Lloyd said. “Just barely, but we got it. I was hoping it was gone. I was dead sprinting around first base, and I looked up there and I thought he had caught it. But then the fans started cheering, and I was like, ‘There we go.’’
Jake Washer fueled the momentum with a walk, and with two outs and a 1-0 lead Bryant Packard came up to bat and hit a double to left centerfield for his 10th two-base shot of the season. With two men on, Washer scored on a wild pitch and then Lane Hoover shot a grounder up the center of the field to score Packard and secure a 3-0 lead.
It would have been enough, but the Pirates added extra gravy in the sixth with a walk from Thomas Francisco, a successful bunt from Lloyd and a single from Washer to score Francisco. Next Nick Barber hit into a double play but knocked in Lloyd, and finally, with two outs, Packard hit a single to bring in Washer.
Godwin told the team ahead of time that Wednesday would be a bullpen night, and he put six different pitchers on the mound, commencing with freshman Ryder Giles in his first start of the season. Giles pitched three scoreless innings to keep his ERA at an even 0.00.
Trey Benton earned the win for 2.1 innings of work in which he gave up two hits and struck out three batters.
“Obviously, we came in today, knowing it was bullpen day, so for (Giles) to give us three innings like that it’s huge,” said Sam Lanier, who came in at the end of Benton’s stint and struck out two batters to strand two Blue Devil runners on base. “It doesn’t put as much stress on the guys later on in the game.”
With several memorable defensive plays, consistency from a carousel of pitchers and hits from six different batters, Godwin characterized the victory as a solid team win, saying, “I thought our guys played great.”
The Pirates head to Houston on Friday for a three-game series with the Cougars and an effort to protect their 6-0 conference record.