One of the biggest crowds in ECU baseball history, easily the biggest crowd of the season, was on deck but there wasn’t much to cheer for. It took a struggling hitter to open the floodgates for a struggling offense, but once he did they could not be stopped.
Brady Lloyd lined a solo home run to left field, his first extra base hit of the season, to break the scoreless tie and the rest of the offense picked up the slack en route to a 6-1 win for ECU (22-6, 6-0 AAC) over Duke (14-15, 3-9 ACC). ECU’s win streak is now up to 10, while the Blue Devils drop a game below .500.
“I was hoping it was gone but I was dead sprinting around first base. I looked out there and I thought he caught it but then the fans started cheering,” Lloyd said
In its first home game in 10 days, the Pirates won in front of a crowd of 4,744, a season high and the 15th highest mark in ECU baseball history.
“4,700 screaming, that will get you going a little bit. It also makes it harder on their pitchers,” ECU outfielder Bryant Packard said.
ECU evened the season series between the two teams with the win. Duke defeated ECU 7-2 in Durham back on Mar. 12. That was a different Duke team however, which was 11-5 when it played ECU the first time but was just 14-14 coming into the rematch before the Pirates put them below .500.
Lloyd had been struggling, being hitless in the last three games against USF. He had not recorded a multi-hit game since Mar. 10 against Marist. Lloyd came in to Wednesday’s game with a .238 batting average. Lloyd went 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored.
“It feels real good. I don’t hit many home runs so when I do it’s awesome,” Lloyd said.
After Lloyd’s solo shot, the Pirates added two more runs in the three-run fifth inning. Jake Washer walked, Packard doubled, a wild pitch scored Washer and moved Packard to third base. A Lane Hoover single scored Packard to make it 3-0. Duke also had two passed balls in the inning on top of the wild pitch.
ECU added three more runs in the sixth inning when Thomas Francisco walked, Lloyd laid down a bunt single and Washer singled Francisco home. Lloyd scored on a Nick Barber groundout. Packard then followed it up with a single to left field to score Washer.
“It was a complete effort. The defense was really good too. It was Pirate baseball,” Packard said.
Ryder Giles made his first career start. In what Packard said was “a bullpen day” according to ECU head coach Cliff Godwin, Giles went just 3.0 innings, gave up no runs on just two hits and threw only 30 pitches. Giles first eight appearances came out of the bullpen and, other than one other game he threw 28 pitches, he hasn’t reached 10 pitches in an outing. He still has a 0.00 ERA through 11.1 innings pitched this season. Duke starter Cooper Stinson pitched 4.2 innings, giving up three runs on six hits and 90 pitches.
Trey Benton came in and pitched the next 2.1 innings scoreless before loading the bases and being relieved in favor of Sam Lanier, who struck out back-to-back batters to leave the bases loaded.
“I knew that Trey had thrown really well before me, so it was really big to not let his runs score. It was awesome. He gave me a big hug when we came to the dugout and it was really good to see Trey on point tonight,” Lanier said.
Benton has struggled with consistency this season. It was his first time going more than two innings without allowing a single run since the opening series against Radford, when he threw 2.1 scoreless innings. Benton threw 2.0 scoreless innings against Elon but also gave up four runs in 2.2 innings against Marist. Benton didn’t pitch in the next six games after that outing. Godwin said that Benton was “the old Trey” tonight.
It was very close to being a shutout. Zach Barnes and Cam Colmore each threw one scoreless inning of relief. Evan Odum came on to pitch the ninth and got to two outs before a single dropped in front of a diving Dusty Baker in center field scored the Blue Devil’s lone run of the game.
“The pitching staff has evolved for sure. This team is a lot different. It’s been a challenge for me. I’ve learned a lot as a coach this year just trying to maneuver parts on the back-end,” Godwin said. “You’ve got Ryder Giles and Alec Burleson playing positions and you’ve got to figure out how you’re going to get them in and who’s going to go in. It’s been interesting. There are a lot of moving parts, but that’s why we’ve got a great staff and we talk and figure it out.”
After playing its first home game since Mar. 24, ECU gets back on the road for a series against Houston. Friday’s game starts at 7:35 p.m. The Pirates won’t be back at home until Apr. 18.