East Carolina University baseball (3-0, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) swept George Washington University (GWU) (3-0, 0-0 Atlantic 10 Conference) in a three-game series in Greenville, North Carolina, on Feb. 18 and 19.
Originally, the series was slated to begin on Feb. 17 at 6 p.m. but a series of rain delays left the field conditions too poor to play on. The Friday night game was pushed to Saturday to create a double header in Clark-LeClair Stadium.
The Pirates answered the challenge in commanding fashion, out-scoring the Colonials 43-13 in three games. The outpouring of offense is best for ninth place in college baseball, which is more impressive for the Pirates considering five teams ahead of them in the scoreboard have played one more game in the season.
The first game of the season, played at 1 p.m. as the first game of a double header, was a 9-5 victory for ECU. Senior pitcher Carter Spivey started the game on the mound for the Pirates and was the only pitcher to allow multiple runs.
The rest of the rotation, senior pitcher Garrett Saylor, freshman pitcher Zach Root and junior pitcher Tyler Bradt, allowed only four hits in the opening game collectively. Brandt also allowed a single run in the top of the ninth inning. Root was able to achieve his first win from the mound, as the freshman starter received action in his first eligible game of college baseball.
Offensively, the Pirates came out the gate swinging. Junior full time catcher Justin Wilcoxen was the most valuable player of the weekend. The hot-handed hitter knocked four runners batted in (RBIs) in a seven for ten effort from the plate in Saturday’s double header before matching his performance on Sunday with four more RBIs in a three for four performance in the Sunday contest.
Through three games, Wilcoxen had ten hits, nine runs and eight RBIs. Throughout the entirety of the 2022 season, Wilcoxen created 27 hits and nine RBIs. Along with being the offensive anchor, Wilcoxen was behind the plate for every inning of the weekend series for ECU.
Game two of the double header played out similarly to the first. As the Pirates warmed up and got their feet settled into the new year, the team was able to create another victory with an 11-3 win against GWU.
“We talked about it in the preseason,” sophomore center fielder Jacob Jenkins-Cowart said during the postgame press conference. “Our offense has been hot all preseason and we knew if we just stuck to our approach the coaches gave us and try to keep quality at-bats chained together, we would be fine.”
Jenkins-Cowart had the biggest moment in game two, scoring a grand slam with a hit in the bottom of the sixth inning. The Pirates scored eight runs in that inning alone, pouring on another run the following inning. Once again, the Colonials were not able to keep up offensively.
Sophomore pitcher Trey Yesavage started game two for ECU on the mound, creating seven strikeouts in five full innings pitched. Yesavage allowed five hits which created two of the three GWU runs, but sophomore pitcher Merritt Beeker prevented the Colonials from moving forward. The three strikeout performance for Beeker was enough for him to earn the win.
With the 2-0 performance in the double-header, the Pirates brought the winning momentum and scoring output to the Sunday game. Starting in the bottom of the first inning, ECU created a 3-0 lead that would never be caught up to. The five runs were the most GWU put up in a single game throughout the weekend series, but it was not enough to keep up with ECU’s whopping 23 run performance.
The scoring output was the most runs that the Pirates have scored in a single game since the team scored 21 points in 2011 against Delaware State University.
“Oh my gosh,” junior second baseman Jacob Starling said during the postgame press conference. “It’s a lot more fun than last year’s opening weekend. That’s for sure.”
Thirteen different Pirates created runs in the third game. Senior outfielder Lane Hoover and Wilcoxen both led the team with four runs each. The team operated as a machine, not exposing one single GWU pitcher, but creating multiple runs against every pitcher who stepped to the mound. The Colonials only created two strikeouts in the game, one of which came in garbage time in the bottom of the eighth inning.
GWU’s graduate student pitcher Austin Odell received the loss on the mound, allowing seven hits and eight runs in a little over three innings pitched. The pitching rotation created 21 total errors, but Odell was responsible for the team high six of errors.
“In my 23 years of playing baseball, I’ve maybe had one week like that,” head coach Cliff Godwin said during the postgame press conference. “All those guys, really all weekend, did what they were supposed to do.”
Since 2015, ECU has been either swept or been swept in every opening weekend series that they have participated in, winning five and losing three. The 3-0 start against GWU compounds as the most recent win in that streak.
The confidence of starting the season with 45 runs in three games should carry into the week to come, as the Pirates are scheduled to face off against Campbell University (2-1, 0-0 Southern Conference) on Feb. 21 in Buies Creek, North Carolina before the team faces another weekend series from Feb. 24 through Feb. 26 against the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (2-1, 0-0 Atlantic Coastal Conference) in both Greenville and Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
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