Pirates walk-off on Opening DayPublished 11:49am Saturday, February 15, 2014
By Michael Prunka
East Carolina topped James Madison 6-5 in nail-biter of a season opener. Knotted at five apiece in the bottom of the ninth, the Pirates secured the win with an odd walk-off when Garrett Brooks ran home on a throwing error by JMU third baseman Ty McFarland.
ECU’s biggest offensive statement of the night was its explosive sixth inning. Until that point, the Pirates had been on a hitless streak, with Dylan Brown’s solo homerun in the second being the team’s last knock. In the sixth, Drew Reynolds led off with a single and Zach Houchins followed suit immediately after. Ian Townsend, in his regular-season debut for ECU, drilled a three-run homer right past the Taco Bell sign in right field.
“It definitely gives me a lot of confidence,” said Townsend. “Coach [Billy Godwin] had already put some confidence in me, so I wasn’t worried going up. I think I was 0-2 before that and I just went up there and I felt smooth.”
Starting pitcher Jeff Hoffman shined, too. With plenty of scouts in attendance, he spent the afternoon in a pitching duel with JMU’s Mark Gunst. In 6.2 innings pitched, Hoffman struck out six Dukes and gave up four runs (three earned) on four hits.
“I thought Jeff was solid,” said Godwin. “Again, we had a 90-pitch count on him. He got us almost seven innings—exactly what we wanted. What can you ask more from your starter? He comes out of the game with the lead. I thought he had a good outing.”
Hoffman did his job keeping JMU’s batters in check. ECU had a sloppy defensive showing in the fourth that resulted in the Dukes taking a two-run lead. Conner Brown led off with a single and Matt Tenaglia followed up with one of his own. Tyler Gregory grounded out to second base and plated Brown in the process for an RBI. Tenaglia ended up scoring the second run for JMU on a passed ball.
Ryan Williams was credited with the win. With the exception of Nick Durazo’s three pitches, Williams accounted for the entire relief pitching effort. He only gave up two hits in the final 2.1 innings. The only run JMU got on his watch was an unearned run by Brown via Kevin Husum’s sac-fly.
“It’s nice to get it done early,” said Williams regarding jumping such a high-pressure situation. “Obviously, last year, I had about three or four times in the bullpen. I was mostly a starter. So, it’s nice to get it done as quickly as possible.
The season-opening series against the Dukes continues Saturday at 2 p.m. The Pirates will surely be looking to build off the momentum of a walk-off win.