Thomas Francisco against William & Mary

Thomas Francisco crosses home plate to score one of ECU's 11 runs on Saturday in an 11-3 win.

Not 24 hours removed from scoring only two runs across 11 innings, the East Carolina University (2-0, 0-0 AAC) baseball team hung 11 runs on The College of William & Mary (0-2, 0-0 CAA) on Saturday in an 11-3 victory.

“Coach Godwin told us not to come out flat, and I don’t think we did. We came out swinging and we pounded hard,” freshman infielder Zach Agnos said.

Mirroring Friday’s offensive performance through the first three innings, the Pirates busted out in a big way in the home half of the fourth inning. Save for an RBI single off the bat of Agnos in the second frame and a walk-off single from their catcher in the 11th on Friday, ECU had yet to come to life in the new year.

In the fourth inning alone, the Pirates sent 11 men to the plate, pushing across five runs on four hits. Sophomore infielder Thomas Francisco kicked off the inning, drawing a walk and marking the second time in as many frames that he reached base to lead-off an inning.

Similar to the second inning, Francisco’s reach served as a catalysis for an offensive breakthrough. Behind Francisco, three straight Pirate batters reached base, including RBI hits from junior catcher Seth Caddell and Agnos.

“Just stick to the approach,” Agnos said. “We’ve been doing it all fall, so it’s not anything new. I definitely felt comfortable and hopefully it stays that way.”

Caddell’s hit, a double off the right-center field wall that nearly left the ballpark, was the first of two two-baggers in the frame. The second, a rope down the left field line off senior infielder Nick Barber’s bat, chased William & Mary’s starter after only 3.1 innings.

Nevertheless the shortness of junior left-handed pitcher Justin Pearson’s outing, the Pirates forced the southpaw to throw 66 pitches, only 37 of which were for strikes.

Pearson, who only walked one batter, was tagged for eight hits and six earned runs, two of which came after he exited the ballgame.

Up 4-0 after a RBI groundout from sophomore infielder Ryder Giles, new Tribe pitcher, redshirt senior right-handed pitcher, Nick Butts walked the bases loaded before walking home two runs across three subsequent batters.

Of Butts’ 43 pitches, 21 fell outside of the zone as the Tribe’s pitching staff issued a total of six walks on the evening.

Staked to a 6-0 lead, ECU pushed home three additional runs in the bottom of the fifth. One off the bat of junior outfielder Bryson Worrell, the Pirates were gifted two runs when William & Mary’s first baseman skipped a ball into center field on a throw to second base.

While 11 runs on 12 hits is the proper way to bounce back after Friday’s performance, senior right-handed pitcher Tyler Smith looked like a shell of his 2019 self on the mound for the Pirates.

“I knew the whole time they (the offense) were going to have my back, but if they could put up the runs, I was going to go out there and just throw up a zero the best I could,” Smith said. “With them having my back and everything, it was just big, big time.”

Having worked on his off-speed pitchers during the off-season, Smith garnered multiple whiffs on sliders and changeups during his five innings of work on Saturday.

“I told you that his breaking ball is better,” head coach Cliff Godwin said. “If you go back, he threw a 2-0 breaking ball for a strike and then in the fourth inning, he threw the lead-off batter a 3-2 breaking ball and then the second batter a 3-2 breaking ball. He’s never been able to do that before, that’s going to allow him to pitch deeper into games.”

Despite yielding two walks in the first inning, Smith notched two punch outs around a groundout. Those strikeouts were the first of six total for the right-hander as he failed to walk another batter across his remaining four frames of work.

Without an infield single off the bat of sophomore infielder/outfielder Hunter Hart in the second, Smith would have carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning. Even so, the Tribe managed only three additional hits following Smith’s departure, striking out a total of 14 times on the evening.

Of the 17 batters Smith faced, he induced eight groundouts and a ground ball infield single, failing to allow the Tribe to elevate the baseball. A sinker-heavy approach, Smith is often at his best when he keeps the opposing team on the ground like he did on Saturday.

“I thought it was awesome. When you look at the box score, he struck out more guys than he normally does,” Godwin said.

In relief of Smith, the Pirates used four pitchers to bridge the remaining four innings. Freshman left-handed pitchers C.J. Mayhue and Carson Whisenhunt both saw action. While Mayhue worked two clean innings, Whisenhunt struggled in the ninth and was tagged with all three of William & Mary’s runs in a lopsided defeat for the Tribe.

Mayhue logged three strikeouts in his collegiate debut while sophomore right-handed pitcher Carter Spivey matched him with three punch outs.

“Mayhue did exactly what we want him to do,” Godwin said. “He came in and he’s got an aggressive mentality. Fills it up, good fastball, his changeup was really good today.”

All told, the Pirates’ pitchers filled the zone, tossing 64.2% of their pitches for strikes. In comparison, the Tribe’s staff logged a 54.2% strike percentage on the evening.

At the plate, Agnos, junior catcher Matt James and sophomore outfielder Lane Hoover all logged two RBI while sophomore infielder Connor Norby recorded a 3-for-5 day with two runs scored.

James mashed his first career Division I home run and the Pirates’ first of the season in the eighth inning, while seven ECU players logged at least one RBI for the evening.

Worrell responded to an 0-for-4 day on Friday with two hits in five trips on Saturday while junior left-handed pitcher/first baseman Alec Burleson was held to an 0-for-4 day.

“I thought Bryson and Norby played more like themselves today,” Godwin said. “I thought they pressed a little bit yesterday and they played like themselves today. Franny had a good day, Seth had a good day, Zach Agnos had a good day. A lot of good days, Matt James came off the bench, got a big swing. So really good to get a lot of guys in the game.”

The 2-0 Pirates will attempt a weekend sweep of William & Mary on Sunday. First pitch from Clark-LeClair Stadium is scheduled for 1 p.m.

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