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Inside Game Day
Friday, June 10, 2016

By Al Myatt

Al Myatt

Mr. June bustin' out all over

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

Postgame audio: Cliff Godwin, Travis Watkins, Matt Bridges...

LUBBOCK, TX Travis Watkins has become Mr. June for East Carolina in the way that Reggie Jackson was once Mr. October for the New York Yankees by hitting big home runs in big games.

Watkins continued his torrid power pace with two home runs and six RBIs at Texas Tech Friday night in an 8-6 Pirates win in the first game of a best-of-three Super Regional.

Watkins hit a grand slam down the left field line in a five-run fifth inning for ECU (38-21-1) as the Pirates moved within a win of advancing to the College World Series.

It was the first Super Regional win ever for ECU after going 0-2 in 2001, 2004 and 2009.

Watkins belted a two-run homer to left in the sixth for the runs that eventually made the difference against the Red Raiders (44-18).

A three-run walk-off homer by Watkins provided an 8-6 win over Virginia last Saturday, the deciding moment in the Charlottesville regional.

"I've worked really hard with Coach (Cliff) Godwin over the past few weeks," Watkins said. "I've kind of shortened up my swing a little bit, went to my two-strike approach. That's what we've worked on is just something that we're comfortable with."

Like Godwin, Watkins is a catcher. He got a first hand view as Evan Kruczynski and Matt Bridges combined for a successful night on the mound.

"I wouldn't say this was one of Kruz's best outings," Watkins said. "One thing you know you're going to get from Kruz is you know he's going to go out there and compete. That was evident today. He was able to get deep in the game for us, eat up some innings. ... He was able to throw his change-up all day. He was keeping guys off balance and I think that really helped him out. He was able to command the zone. That's what you need out of your Friday night starter."

Kruczynski (8-1) went five and two-thirds innings before Sam Lanier came in to finish the sixth with a strikeout. Kruczynski, a junior left-hander, allowed six hits and three runs (all earned). He walked five and struck out six.

Lanier ran into trouble in the seventh, yielding a three-run homer to Tyler Neslon that brought the Red Raiders within 8-6.

That's where the score remained as Godwin summoned Bridges. Although closer Joe Ingle was ready, the Pirates stayed with Bridges, a freshman right-hander. Bridges fashioned two and two-thirds innings of no-hit ball and recorded six strikeouts in earning his second save.

ECU pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts.

The Pirates held a 13-8 lead in hits as Watkins and Parker Lamm each had three hits. Dwanya Williams-Sutton was 2-for-5.

ECU looks to close out the series and make the dream of going to Omaha a reality with a 3 p.m. game today (ESPNU).

E-mail Al Myatt

PAGE UPDATED 06/11/16 03:27 AM.

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