Wright on!Published 10:15pm Saturday, March 12, 2011
GREENVILLE č The Pirates didn’t need any late inning heroics on Saturday as emerging ace Michael Wright silenced the Rutgers lineup en route to a 4-0 victory on the second day of the Keith LeClair Classic.
For East Carolina, who topped Monmouth 4-3 yesterday to open the Classic, the win sets up a showdown for the tourney title with Liberty, who beat Rutgers 5-2 on Friday, and topped Monmouth 4-3 on Saturday.
Heading into Saturday’s game ECU (11-3) had played eight games this season that had been decided by two runs or less. However, Wright (3-0) put aside the need for late game theatrics by throwing seven innings of shutout ball. The 6-5, 195-pound junior scattered six hits during his seven innings of work while striking out six batters and. most importantly, walked none.
Wright, whose seven scoreless innings lowered his ERA to a minuscule 1.48, was thrilled that he could pick up a win at the Classic.
“It’s awesome because nothing is higher than the Keith LeClair Classic,” Wright said. “Everything about LeClair is just heightened here so to have a good day in this series means a lot.”
It meant a lot to East Carolina head coach Billy Godwin too. Godwin said he was impressed with the way his ace was able to quiet Rutgers (5-7, Big East Conference) on Saturday.
“I thought he was outstanding,” Godwin said. “He is a strike thrower, he’s got (velocity), he can beat bats and he’s got three above average pitches … You just don’t see a lot of hard contact against him and I thought our D played good behind him.”
After three scoreless innings, East Carolina finally got to Rutgers’ starter Rob Smorol in the bottom of the fourth when the Pirates rallied for two runs.
Zach Wright (1-3, RBI), who led off the inning with a walk and stole second, was joined on base by Chris Gosik (1-3, RBI) who single to right. Both runners would advance an extra base when right fielder Michael Lang made a poor throw back into the infield on Gosik’s hit.
The Pirates loaded the bases when Smorol hit Chase McDonald with a pitch. Philip Clark recorded the first out of the inning when he popped out to the catcher. The Pirates base runners didn’t have to wait much longer to advance though, as freshman Jack Reinheimer drove a fastball over the shortstop’s head to score Wright and Gosik and put the team up 2-0.
“Right there I was just trying to get a ball I could stay on top of and drive a couple of runs in,” Reinheimer said. “I was just trying to help the team get ahead and help the team win.”
Reinheimer ended the day going 2-for-4 with two RBIs to raise his season average to .310, and said is enjoying the atmosphere surrounding the Classic.
“It’s amazing,” Reinheimer said. “You can tell there is a lot of history behind it, the fans showed up pretty well today; it’s great.”
The Pirates added two more runs in the bottom of the fifth when Gosik hit a fielder’s choice grounder with the bases loaded that scored Corey Thompson, who legged out an infield single to get on board.
McDonald followed that up with an sacrifice fly to right field that scored John Wooten, who reached base when he smashed a double down he third base line.
McDonald was the last batter Smorol would face as he was pulled for Ryan Fasano, who pitched the next 2 1/3 innings without giving up a run.
The Pirates added one more score in the ninth when Wooten hit a fielder’s choice grounder to score Wright.
East Carolina’s bullpen continued to impress as Jake Harris came on to pitch a scoreless eighth inning and Mike Anderson followed him up with a scoreless ninth.
The Pirates lone scare of the day came in the top of the fifth when shortstop Tim Younger had his eye cut when he attempted to field a ground ball that took a bad hop. The injury forced him to leave the game.
“He must have lost it or something, it looked like it tipped off his glove and hit him in the eye,” said Reinheimer, who was playing second base at the time. “It was kind of scary.”
The Pirates will try for their fifth straight win today when Zach Woods (0-1, 4.09) takes the mound against Liberty’s John Niggli (1-1, 5.11).
If East Carolina can top the Flames it will give the program its second straight LeClair Classic title and its sixth in eight years.