Consistent pitching motivating the Pirates’ at the platePublished 2:49pm Thursday, March 6, 2014
By Michael Prunka
East Carolina’s pitching staff has shined throughout the beginning of the young season. Because of that, the Pirates (7-5) are able to focus on building their offense from the mound out.
ECU is coming off an unsuccessful road trip last week that yielded four straight losses to top-ranked Virginia and VCU. The Pirates turned right around and, with their recent win at UNC-Greensboro, have won four in a row. Each victory has told a different story about the talent of the team’s pitchers.
Last time the Pirates took the field, it was Drew Reynolds that was credited with the extra-innings win. While going for the save in the ninth inning, Reynolds gave up an unearned run and two hits while notching a strikeout.
That win was his first of the season, but definitely not his only impressive performance thus far. He had a strong showing in the Keith LeClair Classic. He tied the school record for career saves in Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh after coming in and striking out the side in the top of the ninth. He then turned around and broke the record after giving up three hits and an earned run en route to helping ECU hang on to defeat Ohio State, 3-2.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” said Reynolds about having the all-time record for saves at ECU. “But, it’s more than just me. It’s all the great guys I’ve played with along the way. Seth Simmons, who came before me, kind of taught me how to handle being a closer and the late-game situation. Coach [Dan] Roszel and coach [Billy] Godwin having their faith in me and helping me become better. Like I said, it’s just 27 wins I’ve helped the Pirates get.”
Reynolds and the rest of the pitching staff are doing their part to earn ECU wins. Now it’s the offense that’s slowly stepping up to help earn those wins.
“It’s a team game,” said manager Billy Godwin. “When one area’s down, the other one’s got to pick it up. I keep telling guys that our offense is going to come around. Early in the year, pitching is always ahead of hitting.”
ECU’s presence at the plate has been developing as of late. In Saturday’s Keith LeClair Classic matchup against Pittsburgh, the Pirates had 10 hits while their pitchers held the Panthers to just two. They broke the game open with three runs on seven hits between the fourth and fifth innings.
Saturday’s contest saw Reynolds and Zach Houchins combine for five of the team’s hits en route to each man’s third multiple-hit game of the season.
Newcomer Ian Townsend helped ECU’s offense continue to roll against a formidable Ohio State club on Sunday. While the Pirates were outhit 8-5, Townsend went 3-for-4 at bat and batted in his ninth runner of the season with an RBI double that scored Houchins for the second run of the game.
An array of ECU pitchers gave the Pirates the support they needed to continue building offensive momentum. Tyler Bolton started and threw six innings, while only surrendering a run on seven hits. David Lucroy, Ryan Williams, Drew Reynolds and Nick Durazo split the remaining four innings. The four of them gave up just three hits and two runs (one earned).
On their backs, the Pirates continued to impress at the plate with a seven-hit, four-run effort in Greensboro. Once again, Reynolds and Houchins each had multiple hits—their fourth time doing so—and combined for two runs and an RBI. Ben Fultz had just his second hit in 29 at-bats, but made it count. His single plated both Townsend and Houchins.
The Pirates have continually developed their game from the mound out. With the offense improving and the pitchers showing no signs of letting up, ECU is poised to make an impact as it conference schedule starts this weekend with a series against Marshall in Greenville. If offensive momentum continues to build, there’s no reason the pitching staff can’t lead the Pirates to a hot start against Conference-USA foes.