ECU Baseball Splits Midweek Games Ending the Two Game Skid
Dylan Johnson / ESPN Greenville
No. 9 East Carolina University baseball split its two-midweek games, losing 3-2 to Air Force on Monday afternoon
and defeating Elon 5-3 on Wednesday afternoon. The win over Elon ended the losing streak at two games, and the 1-1 week brings ECU’s record to 6-3. Here are some takeaways from the two midweek clashes.
- The ECU bullpen continues to be an inconsistent group. The bullpen had a meltdown against Monmouth on Sunday as the Hawks scored seven unanswered runs in the seventh inning or later to win 8-5. With the game tied 2-2 going into the ninth inning, Zach Barnes came on to record the save but instead gave up the game-winning home run. Barnes now has two losses this year out of the bullpen, also getting the loss against Campbell by giving up the walk-off hit. It was even more significant because the Air Force bullpen pitched great. Zach Ergo got the start and pitched four innings, giving up one inning and walking four. But Nathan Price pitched five innings in relief and gave up just one run on one hit. But the ECU bullpen bounced back against Elon. Trey Benton pitched two scoreless innings of relief after struggling against Monmouth on Sunday when he gave up two runs while recording just one out. Freshman Ryder Giles recorded his first career save with a 1-2-3 ninth inning.
- Alec Burleson continues to rake at the plate. Burleson went 2-for-4 with an RBI against Air Force and then did even better against Elon by going 3-for-4, including his second home of the season when he launched a solo shot in the sixth inning. Burleson has now recorded multi-hit games in six of the Pirates nine games. The problem for ECU is that Ryder Giles was the only other Pirate with a hit against Air Force. Giles had upped his hit streak to four games before failing to record a hit against Elon.
- Bryant Packard returned to the lineup for ECU. Packard injured his hand during ECU’s 15-9 win over Radford in the opening weekend of the season and missed five games after. Packard had a little rust in returning to the lineup, going 0-for-3 against Air Force and 1-for-3 against Elon. Spencer Brickhouse is still sidelined after leaving the game against Campbell after an uncomfortable swing.
- Sophomore Gavin Williams got his first career win by throwing five innings and giving up two runs against Elon. Williams was hit-or-miss at times, walking five batters but striking out six as well. Sophomore Jake Kuchmaner got his first action of the season starting against Air Force and pitched well, going six innings and giving up one earned run.
- Nick Barber treated fans to something they hadn’t seen in years from an ECU player. Barber doubled in the second inning and preceded to steal third base. Then he followed it up by stealing home plate to increase ECU’s lead to 4-2. It was the first straight-up steal of home for ECU since Ben Fultz did so in 2012 against Old Dominion. The Pirates were exceptionally aggressive on the basepaths against Elon, not just Barber. Packard, Turner Brown recorded one steal each and Barber stole two. Packard bunted for a single to start the first inning, reached second on a Brady Lloyd walk and then scored from second on a throwing error.
“That’s the first time I’ve stolen home and it’ll probably be the last time. Coach came up behind me and told me to go for it. It all happened in five seconds, so there wasn’t too much time to think,” Barber told reporters after the game.
ECU head coach Cliff Godwin was much more pleased with the play of the team than he was after the Monmouth game on Sunday. “We got back to Pirate baseball tonight. We put together good at-bats, pitched well and played good defense. We need to quit worrying about who we’re playing and just keep playing our brand of baseball,” Godwin told reporters after the game.
ECU now focuses for the 16th Annual LeClair Classic it’s hosting at Clark-LeClair Stadium this weekend. ECU plays against Utah at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Wright State at 4:30 on Saturday, and Western Carolina at 3:30 on Sunday