NASHVILLE — East Carolina will try again to get going offensively in game two of its Super Regional at Vanderbilt on Saturday after the Pirates took a 2-0 loss to Kumar Rocker and the Commodores on Friday.
ECU (44-16) was limited to three hits, but Gavin Williams turned in a strong performance in a duel with Rocker.
“It was a really well-pitched game by two studs,” said Pirates coach Cliff Godwin. “Rocker was just a touch better. They got three extra-base hits and we didn’t get any.
“We’ve got to be able to scratch some runs in a game like that.”
Williams (10-1) absorbed his first loss of the season after going seven and one-third innings. He yielded seven hits and two earned runs while walking two with 13 strikeouts.
“I wasn’t trying to do too much,” Williams said. “I was just trying to give my team a chance to win.”
Williams’ fast ball consistently registered in the upper 90s.
“He attacked with his fast ball early,” said Vandy coach Tim Corbin of Williams. “Then he started landing his curve ball and slider. He didn’t blink either. We had two big-league pitchers. I think people will say, four or five years from now, ‘Do you remember that game at Hawkins Field?'”
Rocker’s line for seven and two-thirds innings included three hits, three walks and 11 strikeouts.
“We didn’t do a good job of stringing at-bats together,” said Thomas Francisco, who went 1-for-4 for the Pirates.
Kinston native and Vanderbilt basketball coach Jerry Stackhouse sang the National Anthem in the Music City.
The hosts took a 1-0 lead in the second after a bunt single by Parker Nolan. He moved to third on a double down the left field line by C.J. Rodriguez and scored on a grounder to second by Javier Vaz.
Norby walked to start the fourth for ECU’s first base runner against Rocker, but was caught stealing.
The Commodores (44-15) got a one-out double to left from Isaiah Thomas in the fourth and he moved to third on a wild pitch. The Pirates got out of the threat as shortstop Ryder Giles, second baseman Norby and first baseman Francisco combined for a double play.
Alec Makarewicz singled through the right side for the first hit off Rocker to lead off the fifth. Bryson Worrell walked with two out to put runners at first and second. A fielder’s choice grounder to third by Seth Caddell retired the side.
Vandy got a leadoff double from Vaz in the fifth that caromed off the shin of Giles, but Williams got three straight strikeouts. He fell behind 3-0 in the count to Carter Young with two out before battling back to get him swinging.
Francisco singled to left with two down in the sixth and went to second on a wild pitch, but he was stranded as Moylan was called out looking.
Zach Agnos walked for ECU with one out in the seventh but was left on base with a pop-up and a strikeout.
Vandy left two aboard in the seventh after Rodriguez singled to left with one away and Vaz bunted for a base hit. Norby started a double play to end the inning.
Norby’s 2-out single to right in the eighth was the end of the line for Rocker. Francisco fouled out to third on a 3-0 pitch from Nick Maldonado to strand Norby.
“I had the green light,” Francisco said. “I was just being aggressive, trying to make something happen.”
Vandy got a run in the eighth following a video review and reversal of an out call by plate umpire Kelly Gonzalez. Enrique Bradfield Jr. had an infield single and went to second on a wild pitch. He moved to third on Young’s sacrifice bunt. Bradfield came home on a grounder to Zach Agnos at short. Pirates catcher Caddell applied the tag as Bradfield dove head first and reached for the plate with his left hand.
Godwin pulled Williams after the lengthy video review.
“He didn’t want to come out,” Godwin said.
Freshman left-hander A.J. Wilson walked the lone batter be faced, before Cam Colmore came in to shut the door with a foul out that Francisco came in to catch and a 4-pitch strikeout.
Luke Murphy set the Pirates down in order in the ninth for his eighth save.
“Tomorrow is a new day,” Francisco said. “We have to win two at this point. There’s no need to worry about what happened today.”
Game two on Saturday is at 11 a.m., Central time (noon Eastern, ESPN2) and will match Vanderbilt’s Jack Leiter (9-3) against left-hander Carson Whisenhunt (6-1) of East Carolina.
“We’ll definitely have to have a different plan,” Godwin said. “(Rocker and Leiter) are two totally different guys.”
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