East Carolina topped Duke, 5-4, on Tuesday night for a 2-game, regular-season sweep of the Blue Devils. The Pirates had beaten Duke, 12-2, in Durham on March 1.
ECU won the most recent matchup with the Blue Devils despite nine strikeouts at the plate and three errors in the field.
“I’m just proud of our guys,” said eighth-year Pirates coach Cliff Godwin. “They competed hard. We didn’t play our best baseball, but Merritt Beeker gave us a really, really quality start. Garrett Saylor was really good out of the pen. Ben Terwillinger was really good, and Carter Spivey got the save.
“We did enough offensively. We manufactured a run in the first and were able to get a big home run by Jacob Jenkins-Cowart when the game was tied 3-3. Bryson (Worrell) hit a home run with two strikes; just found a way to win. I told our guys after the game, that’s a sign of a good team, when you don’t play your best baseball, but you find a way to win.”
Freshman Jacob Jenkins-Cowart is hitting .343 with nine home runs and 37 RBIs. He played on the high school level at Southeast Guilford.
“He came to a camp really young,” Godwin said. “I think it was his sophomore year. This really tall, lean, first baseman, left-handed hitter, raw, but you dreamed of, ‘Hey, with some development, this guy’s going to have a chance to be really good.’
“But I would tell you, dating back to the fall, he was not in the thought process of being in the starting lineup. The guy just worked, and I say this a lot, but if I could give one piece of advice to parents and kids, he just competed at whatever we were doing, every single day. Whether that would be hitting, whether that be defense in the outfield, whether that be a really tough workout in the weight room, he just showed up with energy and competed.
“He’s an energy source for our team as a freshman and goes about his business the right way. He probably wasn’t a great student coming in, not that he was a bad student, but now he’s turned himself into a great student as well. And he’s got a great personality. He is one of the coolest, funnest guys I’ve ever been around.”
Mound duel in Memphis
The Pirates started a 3-game American Athletic Conference sweep at Memphis last weekend with a 4-1 win in 13 innings on Friday night. Left-hander C.J. Mayhue pitched nine innings without yielding a hit and his mound counterpart, Landon Gartman, left the game after holding ECU hitless for eight innings.
“It’s a shame it wasn’t on video, but two really outstanding pitching performances by both starting pitchers,” Godwin said. “But, their guy, we were able to get a few more pitches under his belt early. We had him at 52 pitches after two innings, but he threw 131 pitches and eight innings, where Mayhue threw 101 in nine innings. I don’t know if, how many people in the world, have ever seen a no hit, nine-inning game, on both sides, and that’s what it was.
“Then Carter Spivey comes in, and he’s outstanding, and we put up four runs in the 13th, and they hit a solo home run in the 13th. Just one of those games, and kind of like playoff baseball, where both pitchers are really good, and you’ve just got to find a way to scratch a run.
“The plan was not for (Mayhue) to go nine innings. We were hoping to get five, maybe six, but his pitch count was so low. Of course, he had the no hitter, but Coach (Austin) Knight (pitching coach) and I had both talked, and when the first guy gets to first base, whether it be a walk, whatever, we’re going to take him out of the game. (Trey) Yesavage was up from like the fourth to the 13th, it seemed like, down in the bullpen. He just really did a good job of keeping his pitch count down, getting ahead of hitters, soft contact early in the count, and that allowed him to go nine, no-hit innings.”
Senior left-hander Jake Kuchmaner has been out of action since April 15. He was 4-2 with a 3.27 earned run average when he left the second game of the Central Florida series with arm soreness.
“He took last week off because we were kind of getting to a point where he would be able to stretch it out and then get off the mound,” Godwin said. “He didn’t feel great, so he took last week off from throwing a baseball. We’re going to try to build him back up, starting (Wednesday). That’s the plan, but no timetable, have no idea. I think if we could get him for the conference tournament (May 24), that would be good. That’s probably best case scenario right now.”
Spivey steps up
Spivey has stepped up to help the Pirate pitching staff with its personnel voids. The junior right-hander is 5-0 with four saves and a 2.45 ERA.
“Great story,” Godwin said. ” … Nobody ever sees the struggle. Nobody ever sees the grind, the work people put in. The guy’s been in our program for, this is his fourth year, but for three years, he never really had success on the field. He made a decision that he wanted to come back this year, and really just said, ‘Hey, coach, I want to come back. I can’t see myself playing anywhere else than East Carolina,’ and just went to work working with Coach Knight, and developing a cutter, and a better slider.
“He’s just got a ton of confidence, and he goes out there and feels out the zone. He’s been one of our MVPs, for sure, on this year’s team. If it wasn’t for Carter Spivey, we definitely wouldn’t be where we are today.”
South Florida series
ECU is 31-14 overall and 14-4 in the AAC going into a 3-game series with South Florida (26-22, 6-12) this weekend.
“Every game is important,” Godwin said. “I’ve told our guys that May is playoff baseball, so every game’s important. You can never look at somebody’s record or take them lightly. You look across the country every night and there are upsets. You got to go out there and play your best baseball. So we need Pirate Nation, regardless of the weather, to pack Clark-LeClair to have a great home field advantage, and be ready to play our best baseball. We’ll need to play better than we played (Tuesday) night to be able to have the results that we want to have.”
Godwin would not say Wednesday morning that Mayhue would start the USF series. There is a 90 percent chance of rain in Greenville on Friday which may affect the schedule for the series and/or the weekend rotation.
Jim C says
Great performance from Merritt Beeker, he could potentially be a real key down the stretch and into post season play. He was very highly recruited and was one of the best pitchers in NC high school last year. I am a bit surprised he has not played a bigger role with more innings to date.
Now that our RPI is #35, as long as we finish strong with these last 7 games at home we are likely in line for an at large bid even if we do not win the Conference tournament. No host this year but the team has battled through a lot of adversity and is coming on strong down the stretch run.