The East Carolina University baseball team improved to 6-0 in weekend series this year, coming back from a game one loss to defeat Wichita State University, climbing to No. 12 in the country.
After finding themselves in the same situation last week against then No. 20 University of Central Florida, ECU won the final two games again to win its first American Athletic Conference series. The Pirates (20-6, 4-2 AAC) were given another test this weekend with the No. 18 ranked Shockers (19-6, 1-2 AAC) coming to Clark LeClair Stadium.
“We have played two quality opponents each weekend in the AAC,” Head Coach Cliff Godwin said. “We have lost in both openers which is not how we drew it up, but I am proud of the guys for responding the way they did after the opening losses both weekends”
Thursday got off to a tough start, with sophomore pitcher Trey Benton and the bullpen struggling for the second straight week, surrendering 14 runs and 20 hits, the most hits since 2010, in a 14-3 loss.
Over the next two days, fellow starting pitchers junior Chris Holba and sophomore Tyler Smith, with a resurgence from the bullpen, stepped up and set the team up to win the final two games and the series.
Holba shut down a Shockers’ who had just exploded for 14 runs, surrendering just one run on five hits, striking out six to two walks over his six innings pitched. Redshirt senior pitcher Davis Kirkpatrick earned his first save of the year after giving up one run on one hit with two strikeouts in 1.1 innings on the mound.
“Baseball is fun and a game of emotion,” Kirkpatrick said. “That was a big situation for us. The hitters continued to make quality at bats, and we went in and made quality pitches.”
Game three was the pinnacle of the series, a game where the Pirates strengthened their national resume with a 5-0 victory to close out the series.
Smith had perhaps the best start of his collegiate career, throwing 7.1 scoreless frames on Saturday. He gave up only five hits while retiring Wichita State's batters in three-up, three down innings four times, striking out six batters. The lineup stepped up when it needed to, scoring five runs on just four hits, including a homer by junior third baseman Connor Litton, his team high fifth of the year.
“As a team, we’re able to take punches and come back the next day and compete,” junior second baseman Brady Lloyd said. “Other teams don’t do what we do. We fall, we work hard, we go through crazy workouts and end up being built for situations like this.”
ECU will continue its five-game home stand on today and tomorrow when it plays the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and Wofford University at 6:30 p.m. both days.