|Dylan Johnson/ ESPN Greenville|
No. 14 ECU’s trip to Mississippi to face off against top-10 competition didn’t start as well as the Pirates would have liked. ECU lost 4-1 to No. 8 Mississippi State on Tuesday afternoon, falling to 8-5 while the Bulldogs improved to 11-1.
- ECU as a team only managed 4 hits. Lane Hoover, Bryant Packard, Spencer Brickhouse, and Turner Brown all recorded one hit each. None of those hitters recorded more than one hit. Packard and Brown’s hits were doubles and Brown’s double drove home the lone ECU run.
- Mississippi State pitching stifled ECU batters all day. The Bulldogs used six different pitchers and only two threw more than one inning (2.0 and 3.0 innings). Those six pitchers combined to strike out 14 batters. Hoover, Packard, Jake Washer, and Dusty Baker all recorded multi-strikeout games.
- Gavin Williams gave up two runs in five innings. Williams got the loss in his third start of the season, and gave the Pirates an opportunity to remain in the game but still has not pitched past the fifth inning. Williams is almost at as many innings this season (14.0) as he pitched in 15 appearances out of the bullpen last season (15.2).
- The bullpen allowed two more runs. Trey Benton pitched 0.2 innings and walked two batters but Evan Voliva continued to pitch well this season. Voliva pitched 2.1 innings, struck out a season-high six batters and gave up just one run. In 9.0 innings, Voliva has struck out 17 batters and allowed just two runs.
- Not a good result of a litmus test style game: Mississippi State is the first ranked ECU opponent so far this season. Last season the Pirates went 10-8 against ranked opponents, including postseason play.
ECU bounced back the next day with a 3-2 win over No. 9 Ole Miss with an almost historic performance on the mound, improving to 9-5:
- Jake Kuchmaner: Kuchmaner almost threw a no-hitter but gave up a hit with two outs in the ninth inning. Kuchmaner went 8.2 innings striking out nine batters. If he had completed the no-hit feat, it would have been the 11th in ECU baseball history. He only allowed three baserunners the entire game, a batter he hit in the fifth inning, a wild pitch strikeout in the sixth inning and the ninth inning base hit.
- Things get dicey: It looked as if the win was already wrapped up with the Pirates up 3-0 and Kuchmaner being unhittable. Kuchmaner walked the third batter of the inning and then once he allowed a hit, head coach Cliff Godwin turned to Friday starter Alec Burleson to get the last out. No big deal, right? Burleson gave up a two-run single and then the usually sure-handed shortstop Turner Brown committed an error and suddenly there were runners on first and second. Burleson then walked the bases loaded and Godwin had to give the ball to Sam Lanier. Lanier managed to get the final out on a pop up in foul territory. Disaster averted.
- The offense in the fourth: In a game with your starting pitcher almost throwing a no-hitter, the Pirates didn’t need much offense. All three of their runs, that proved to be just enough, came in the fourth inning. Bryant Packard led the inning off with a double. Brady Lloyd followed it with a single to move Packard to third. Lloyd would steal second, although it wasn’t necessary as Spencer Brickhouse hit a three-run home run in the at-bat.
- That’s better: It was a much better result against Ole Miss this time. ECU began its 2017 season with a road series at Ole Miss and it ended up with the Pirates being swept despite only being outscored by four runs the entire series. Ole Miss was ranked No. 8 back then, and ECU stumbled to a 32-28 record despite high preseason expectations.
- A return of sorts: ECU head coach Cliff Godwin was a coach on the Ole Miss staff from 2011-2014 under Rebels head coach Mike Bianco.
The trip certainly ended on a better note than it began, and splitting two games at 1-1 against two top-10 teams is pretty good for the Pirates. ECU now returns home to host a weekend series with Marist, Friday’s first pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m