East Carolina University fans who were reeling from the football team’s blowout loss got some reprieve as the baseball team won its exhibition game against the University of Virginia, 5-2.
The first look at the 2019 Pirates ended well thanks to a couple of new faces alongside a familiar name.
Junior infielder Christian Smallwood belted his first home run in an ECU uniform, freshman infielder Thomas Francisco drove in a pair of runs and junior outfielder Bryant Packard collected three hits.
Smallwood is a junior-college transfer from the College of Central Florida. Francisco is a freshman from Abingdon High School in Abingdon, Virginia, and got the start at third base. Packard returns after setting the school record for all-America selections in a season, among other records.
The Pirates jumped out to an early four-run lead, 4-0, behind senior outfielder Chandler Jenkins RBI single and Francisco's two-RBI base knock. With the bases juiced and no outs, redshirt junior catcher Jake Washer reached on a fielder's choice scoring Packard who started the game with a single.
Two batters later Jenkins ripped a shot through to left center plating junior first baseman Spencer Brickhouse. Francisco capped the frame with a two-run single through the right side pushing across Lane Hoover and Jenkins.
Smallwood extended the Pirates’ lead to five, 5-0, when he led off the third frame with a pinch-hit solo homer to left field – the lone longball of the afternoon.
Virginia finally got on the board in the fifth cutting the lead to four, 5-1. With runners on the corners and no outs, Christian Hlinka grounded out to senior pitcher Zach Barnes on the mound plating Zack Gelof. The Cavaliers would pull within three, 5-2, in the seventh on Cayman Richardson's RBI base hit to center that scored Jack Dragum.
ECU used five different pitchers across the nine innings, with junior pitcher Tyler Smith getting the start and throwing two scoreless innings. Senior pitcher Sam Lanier, who got the win, tossed two scoreless frames of relief. Lanier was followed by Barnes, who gave up an unearned run and redshirt junior pitcher Cam Colmore throwing two innings each. Redshirt senior pitcher Evan Voliva recorded the save, striking out the side in the ninth.
So far through workouts, ECU has been saving the arms of junior pitcher Jake Agnos, junior pitcher Trey Benton, sophomore pitcher Alec Burleson, sophomore pitcher Gavin Williams and others who pitched on different teams this summer.
ECU had returner starters in Brickhouse, senior Brady Lloyd (second base), Packard (left field), Washer. Junior Nick Barber started at shortstop in place of senior Turner Brown, who’s recovering from shoulder surgery.
Jenkins started in right field, sophomore utility player Bryson Worrell in center and Francisco at third.
Draft eligible players got to play the entire nine inning game because it was the Pirates designated fall scout day, and most of the 30 Major League Baseball teams were represented there.
The Pirates will continue their fall workouts leading up to the annual Purple-Gold World Series, which will be held Nov. 2-4. The times have yet to be determined.