Nineteenth-ranked East Carolina got the baseball season off to a great start with a series sweep of William & Mary this past weekend.
The Pirates took all three games in the series in very different ways.
ECU had to rally late on Friday. William & Mary struck first on opening day when the Tribe’s Brandon Raquet hit a solo home run in the top of the seventh inning to finally open the scoring. The Pirates loaded the bases in the eighth and tied the game on Thomas Francisco’s sac fly to score Ryder Giles.
The Pirates won the game in the 11th on Seth Caddell’s base hit up the middle that scored pinch-runner Trevor Losito. The 2-1 win in eleven innings marked the first time ECU had won an extra-inning game on opening day since 1975.
Game two featured the only blowout of the weekend. The Pirates pounded out a dozen hits and Tyler Smith allowed just a single hit in five shutout innings in a relatively easy 11-3 win.
In the series finale, Jake Kuchmaner made his first appearance on the year. He’s coming back from some arm issues in the preseason and was on a very strict pitch count. He got the win, and was the first of a parade of Pirate pitchers. Trystan Kimmel, Matt Bridges, Garrett Saylor, Ryder Giles, Zach Agnos and Cam Colmore all took turns on the mound in relief in the 7-4 victory. The Pirate pitchers struck out a combined 17 Tribe hitters on the afternoon.
Giles actually made two, separate appearances on the mound in the game.
The Pirate shortstop took over for Saylor in the seventh inning with the bases loaded and struck out a pair to end the frame. He opened the eighth and allowed a run on three-straight singles. He was then replaced by Agnos who got a pair of outs before he was pulled and Giles returned to the mound. The right-hander entered with the bases loaded once more and struck out Tyler Solomon for the second time in the game to get out of the jam.
“Coach Godwin was joking out there about it being like a high school game,” said Giles. “I’ve never been a part of a college game like that. It’s a great example of what Pirate baseball is all about. It’s the next man up. It was a great weekend with great team wins.”
“We are the self-proclaimed ‘Two-Way U’,” said ECU coach Cliff Godwin. “I guarantee you that we have more two way players than any team in the country. When other teams recruit they’ll say, ‘Yeah, you can be a two-way player,’ and then you look up and three years later they are just doing one thing. At East Carolina, you get to do both.”
Overall the weekend was a big success, and now the Pirates look forward to a trip to Campbell this week.
“Any time you can sweep it’s a big deal. Winning college baseball games is tough,” said Godwin. “I think sometimes our fans think we should win every game but it’s just not like that. I though we had to scratch and claw and grind it out today, which is a good thing. Our bullpen got a lot of needed work this weekend and they did a great job.
“They (the team) showed up with intent and energy every day. William & Mary was scrappy. We had the one-run game on Friday night when the pressure was on us at home on opening day when you’re expected to win. For the guys to give up the late run, to rally and then to win extra innings was impressive. They responded on Saturday and came out to play again today.”
The Pirates head to Campbell on Wednesday and then host Georgia Southern in a three-game series next weekend. The next week features a mid-week game with Elon and then it’s the annual Keith LeClair Classic with games against Elon, Ole Miss and Indiana.
The baseball season is off and running at East Carolina.