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Narron magnificent
in first round win

By Denny O'Brien

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KINSTON — Texas Christian proved as pesky as its mascot in sweeping three games from East Carolina during the regular season.  But the Pirates had little trouble leaping the Frogs in a 5-1 C-USA tournament opening round win Wednesday night.

Sparked by a stellar pitching performance by junior left-hander Sam Narron, and a vocal Pirate crowd of 2,241, East Carolina controlled the game from the outset, jumping out to an early 2-0 lead and never looking back.

With the win, sixth-seeded ECU (38-18-1) significantly improved its postseason appeal and set up a winner's bracket showdown with South Florida tomorrow night (7:30).  TCU (29-28), which came in as the No. 3 seed, must now face second-seeded Louisville in an elimination game tomorrow afternoon at 12:30.  

"Our guys came out pretty focused," assistant coach Kevin McMullan said.  "Obviously, we got on them early.  We took  advantage of some things early, and got our feet wet so to speak.  Give credit to our guys -- they stepped up big when we needed it." 

Especially Narron.

Making his first start in two weeks, Narron went 8 1/3 innings, yielding just one run (unearned) on three hits and two walks to pick up his eighth win of the season.  After giving up a run on a fielder's choice in the bottom of the sixth, he retired the next eight batters in order, before making way for reliever Neal Sears with one out in the ninth.

"Sam, after a two-three week stint off, came back as sharp the first game of the year," McMullan said.  "He threw 116 pitches.  That's why we took him out of there."

"We enjoy the boos when we can take him out and it's 5-1.  He did an outstanding job for us tonight, and our team feels very good when Sam is on the mound."

Narron, who had great command of all his pitches all night, said following the game that he had been anxious to return to the hill.

"Two weeks off, sitting there watching these guys at it, it's tough not being able to go out there," Narron said.  "I felt really good tonight.  It felt good to get that first win."

"They're a good hitting squad.  All I was trying to do was throw strikes and keep our team in it, get ground balls, and make them hit the ball off the end of the bat."

The only serious threat the Frogs mounted was in the sixth when right fielder Terry Trufholz scored off a fielder's choice by Mike Settle.  Trufholz reached base on an error by ECU third baseman Bryant Ward, then advanced to third on a looping single by Jake Duncan.

The Frogs could have struck for more had it not been for a sensational catch by Warren Gaspar at the center field wall.

ECU wasted little time getting on the board, plating two runners in the top half of the first to take an early 2-0 lead.  The Pirates sent eight batters to the plate in the inning and needed just one hit — a leadoff single by Gaspar — as TCU ace Clayton Jerome walked one and hit two in the stanza.

The Bucs tacked on another in the third when freshman first baseman Darryl Lawhorn drove home Jamie Paige with a two-out RBI single.  Paige led off the inning with a single up the middle, then advanced to second on sacrifice by Gaspar, and moved to third on a ground out Jedd Sorenson. 

ECU pushed two more across in the top of the sixth, scoring both with two outs .  Jones led off the inning with a sharp single to right, later scoring on a hit by Sorenson.  A wild pitch by reliever Clint Mokry sent Sorenson home, giving the Pirates a 5-0 cushion.

Gaspar, Sorenson, Lawhorn, and Jones paced an 11-hit attack for the Pirates, with each collecting two hits apiece.

"We're happy with the win.  It's just one in a great tournament — it's going to be a long week.  We're excited, and hopefully we can come out focused the same way tomorrow night."

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02/23/2007 02:05:57 AM

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