The East Carolina University baseball team (3-0, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) opened its season with a sweep of the University of Rhode Island (0-3, 0-0 Atlantic 10 Conference) in three games from Feb. 18 through Feb. 21.
The Pirates won the first game 3-2 in 10 innings, game two 7-1 and the third game 12-4, both in regulation, something head coach Cliff Godwin said he was proud of.
“It is really hard to win college baseball games,” Godwin said. “Our guys competed all weekend, and I was super proud and happy for them.”
The first game was a defensive battle, as neither team was able to score until the bottom of the fifth inning. The Pirates were the first to get on the board when junior outfielder Bryson Worrell singled past the second baseman, which allowed sophomore outfielder Lane Hoover to score and put the Pirates up 1-0.
Later that same inning, Worrell scored off a single by sophomore infielder Thomas Francisco. Francisco’s RBI would be the last point the Pirates would score in standard regulation.
Rhode Island would respond in the very next inning with two runs of its own. Junior outfielder Austin White doubled, which allowed freshman infielder Tino Salgado to score. White was then batted in when senior infielder Josh Bradeur hit a single.
Senior right-handed pitcher Cam Colemore was credited with the win for the Pirates after he pitched 1.2 scoreless innings, and starter senior pitcher Tyler Smith pitched 5.1 innings and gave up two earned runs.
Colemore entered the game in the ninth inning for the Pirates and managed to come up clutch for ECU. In the top of the ninth inning Colemore was subbed in with Rhode Island in position to score, but Colemore was able to get sophomore catcher Jordan Laske to hit a ground ball into a double play to end the inning and keep the score tied. Junior outfielder Christian Smallwood said the Pirates felt good about their chances after the play.
“When he got that double play the sense in the dugout was we are definitely gonna win this game,” Smallwood said. “I knew once we got that double play we were gonna win this game for sure.”
Neither team would score again until the bottom of the 10th when junior outfielder Christian Smallwood hit a walk off single to win the game. Smallwood’s walk off single was the second of his career.
The second game of the series was not as close as the first. The Pirates took an early 2-0 lead in the first inning and never looked back. Francisco singled early on to score Worrell, and sophomore infielder Connor Norby would follow up with a single of his own to score Francisco.
Junior catcher Seth Caddell would hit a solo home run in the fifth inning, before Rhode Island would score its lone run of the game in the top of the sixth. Senior outfielder Max Mircovich hit a fly ball to deep center and White was able to score off an ECU error.
ECU would pile on four more runs in the bottom of the seventh. Freshman outfielder Alec Makarewicz was caught stealing second base which allowed freshman outfielder Ryley Johnson to score. Later in the inning, Norby hit a double which scored Francisco, Hoover and Caddell.
Junior left-handed pitcher Jake Kuchmaner picked up his fifth straight win dating back to last season and even retired 10 straight batters amidst his five innings pitched.
“It felt good to finally get out there and face somebody different,” Kuchamnner said. “I know for all of us we have been itching to get back on the field. So it definitely was good to face somebody else and I know everyone was excited.”
In the third game of the series, ECU once again started hot with three runs in the first inning. Caddell, freshman infielder Zach Agnos and freshman first baseman Josh Moylan all hit RBIs to take the early lead.
The Rams responded and pulled it close in the third inning with two runs of their own. Senior outfielder Greg Cavaliere hit an RBI single and freshman utility/right-handed pitcher Addison Kopack followed up with one of his own to make it a 3-2 ball game.
However, that would be as close as the game would get. The Pirates outscored the Rams 9-2 the rest of the game as they scored four runs in the sixth and three in the eighth to further ice the game.
Freshman left-handed pitcher Carson Whisenhunt made the first start of his career and earned his first win for the Pirates. He struck out 10 batters, the most for a freshman starter since Agnos in 2017.
“I was really proud of Carson. Carson was dominant early,” Godwin said. “Walks a guy, guy executes a push bunt, things start testing him. That's what happens when it is your first college start. Things don’t go as planned and you aren't going to just strike out the guy every time. He gave us a quality start. What starting pitching is supposed to do is give you a chance to win and he gave us a chance to win.”
Norby led the Pirates in hits and RBIs in the series. Norby got six hits and four RBIs in 12 at bats, a team high. However, Hoover led the Pirates in runs with five, and tied for second most hits with three. Hoover’s success garnered him a .333 batting average in the series, which is the third highest on the team.
Brooks hit one of two of the Pirates’ home runs in the series. In his lone at bat he hit a three run home run, while junior catcher Seth Caddell hit the other.
No Rhode Island batter got more than three total hits throughout the series. Brodeur was the sole Ram with three hits throughout 11 at bats. He held the team high of a .273 batting average in the series and brought home one RBI.
Junior first baseman Xavier Vargas was the only other Rhode Island batter to have 11 at bats. Vargas had just two hits in the series and scored no runs or RBIs. His .182 batting average was sixth on the team.
Junior outfielder Mark Coley was the third and final player for Rhode Island to have double digit at bats for the series. Coley had just one hit and scored no runs in the series, coming home with a .100 batting average.
The Pirates’ next game will be against Duke University (2-1, 0-0 Atlantic Coast Conference). The game will be played in Greenville, North Carolina, at Lewis Field at Clark-LeClair Stadium on Feb. 23 with the first pitch set for 4 p.m.