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Inside Game Day
Sunday, June 12, 2016

By Al Myatt

Al Myatt

Red Raiders advance on two-hitter

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

Postgame audio: Cliff Godwin, Parker Lamm, Garrett Brooks & Travis Watkins...

LUBBOCK, TX The difference between a No. 5 national seed and a No. 3 regional seed became apparent in game three of the Super Regional at Texas Tech on Sunday.

One big difference was pitching depth as the Red Raiders found a pair of arms to combine for a two-hitter in an 11-0 win over East Carolina at Rip Griffin Park.

Freshman left-hander Erikson Lanning got the start and went seven innings. After surviving a Pirates threat in the first inning, he was in control until junior lefty Hayden Howard came on to get the last six outs.

Lanning allowed just one hit after Parker Lamm singled to start the game, a one-out single by Turner Brown in the second, which was rendered harmless by a double play.

"He was effective working both sides of the plate," said ECU's Garrett Brooks. "He had us off balance, just off speed. We had our plan, and we were sitting there, but he did a great job with just locating and keeping us off balance."

Lanning retired 10 in a row after Brown's hit and his run support continually mounted.

The Red Raiders got a walk to Stephen Smith to start the bottom of the first and Orlando Garcia singled to put runners at first and second. Tanner Gardner bunted to load the bases. After Texas Tech designated hitter Cory Raley fouled off five pitches, ECU junior left-hander Jacob Wolfe got him looking at a third strike for the first out.

Tyler Neslony walked on a full-count pitch for a 1-0 Red Raiders lead.

A two-run single by Eric Gutierrez gave the hosts a 3-0 lead and Pirates coach Cliff Godwin brought in freshman right-hander Chris Holba. The runners moved to second and third on a fly to center by Hunter Hargrove before Holba got Michael Davis swinging to end the inning.

ECU had threatened in the top of the first as Lamm singled to left and Travis Watkins was walked with one away. Lamm went to third on a fly to center by Dwanya Williams-Sutton. Watkins took second on a wild pitch before a ground out to short by Eric Tyler ended the opportunity.

Brown bounced a single off Lanning with one out in the second before Brooks grounded into a double play.

Holba worked a 1-2-3 inning in the second. Lanning struck out the side in the third.

A one-out single by Raley and a double by Neslony gave Texas Tech runners at second and third in the third inning. Godwin pulled Williams-Sutton from left field after the two-bagger to left-center by Neslony. Brooks moved from center to left and Brady Lloyd came in to play center. Godwin said he made the move after perceiving a lack of effort from the American Athletic Conference hitting leader.

Matt Bridges came in for Holba. A wild pitch allowed Gutierrez to score for a 6-0 Texas Tech lead. Hargrove was out trying to steal home to end the inning.

Denny Brady took the mound for ECU in the fifth. He hit Gutierrez with two out before a ground ball retired the Big 12 Player of the Year at second base on a fielder's choice.

A walk to Bryce Harman to start the sixth ended a string of 10 straight batters retired by Lanning.

The Red Raiders went ahead 7-0 in the sixth on an RBI double by Orlando Garcia. Smith singled with two out and moved to second on a wild pitch before Garcia's drive to right-center.

Sophomore right-hander Davis Kirkpatrick came on for ECU in the seventh. After striking out Raley, he yielded a double to Neslony, an RBI single to Gutierrez and an RBI double to Hargrove as Texas Tech extended its lead to 9-0. Brooks, who moved back to center field to start the seventh, was down momentarily after running into the fence on the double by Neslony but he remained in the game.

Godwin went to freshman righty Cam Colmore after an RBI single by Tyler Floyd put the Pirates in a 10-0 hole. Smith sent Brooks to the center field fence for a fly ball to end the seventh.

Colmore yielded an unearned run in an inning of work. Evan Voliva got the final out as ECU finished the season 38-23-1.

Two sophomores and four juniors were used in relief by the Pirates.

"Matt Bridges and Sam Lanier the past two weeks, those guys grew up," Godwin said. "You're talking about two guys, Sam was on the mound in Charlottesville when we won the regional. I think he threw five innings of relief. Bridgy, he emptied the tank, threw every day (in the Super Regional) and gave us everything he had. So those guys have gained a lot of experience, and even Chris Holba. Chris Holba was out there quite a bit. Those three guys and others will be part of the future."

Godwin expects help from the incoming recruiting class among positive factors moving forward.

"The draft was good to us," Godwin said. "Travis (Watkins) will be back and (Evan) Kruczynski will be back. Those guys turned down some money. They weren't drafted, but they had calls, and then the incoming guys are really talented.

"We're going to be really good, and I'm not afraid to say it on record because I'm excited about the future. When you get into a head coaching position, it really takes you three years to get your recruits in here, and the class we've got coming in is going to be one of the best in the country."

The Pirates gained confidence with wins over defending NCAA champion Virginia in the regional and the Red Raiders in game one of the Super Regional.

A 3-1 loss on Saturday to Texas Tech in 13 innings drained the ECU bullpen and made the Pirates vulnerable in front of a mostly-hostile crowd of 4,817 on Sunday.

"We tried to flush it last night," Godwin said of the battle that spanned almost five hours. "We had a team meeting. But when you play 13 innings, and it was just gut-check time, and our bullpen was depleted. We needed a good start from Wolfe. Unfortunately he couldn't give it to us. It is what it is.

"Texas Tech, they're probably better than we are man for man to be honest with you, talent-wise, but our guys fought, ... and if a ball bounces a different way (Saturday), then the result is a little bit different. But hats off to them. They played a little bit better than us, and they're going to Omaha."

The Red Raiders will play in their second College World Series in three years. The Pirates earned some kind comments from Texas Tech coach Tim Tadlock.

"What a weekend," Tadlock said. "I mean, those were really some good baseball games. Got newfound respect for East Carolina baseball. They've got a really tough bunch, and all the respect in the world for Coach Godwin and his staff. I really thought they came in as prepared as a team could be."

The Pirates topped the Red Raiders 8-6 on Friday night as Watkins had a grand slam and a two-run homer. Kruczynski and Bridges were effective on the mound.

The loss Sunday may give the returning Pirates some resolve to go farther in the future. The 2016 Pirates were the first ECU team to win a game in a Super Regional.

Lamm, a senior, has memories to cherish and he'll take vicarious pleasure in keeping up with a program he helped take to a new height.

"The future looks bright at ECU, and I'm excited to see what happens," Lamm said. " ... This is the best time I've ever had. To come here with 5,000, 5,000 plus, you don't get that every day. They were loud, and I could definitely hear them. Everybody could. I mean, that's what made the whole thing fun, though.

"That's what people work for, college student-(athletes) work for every single year, to get to a point like this, and we made it. I mean, they're a great team, great fans, everything, all the way around, and it was just a great experience."

E-mail Al Myatt

PAGE UPDATED 06/13/16 02:06 PM.

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