Ben Fultz embodies ECU baseball’s offensive 180Published 12:01pm Wednesday, March 26, 2014
By Michael Prunka
East Carolina (13-11, 6-3 Conference-USA) has enjoyed quite the remarkable turnaround since Ian Townsend led the Pirates to a pair of wins over Tulane in the March 15 doubleheader. While Townsend’s performance earned him much of the credit for the Pirates sweep of Charlotte, no player has exemplified the team’s turnaround like Ben Fultz.
Last season, Fultz appeared in 50 games and started half of them. Over that span, he had the team’s fifth-best batting average (.292) and also tallied 18 runs and 24 RBI. With talented hitters like Chase McDonald and Jack Reinheimer no longer on-call for the Pirates, they needed people to rise to the occasion. They brought in Ian Townsend, but also counted on returning players like Fultz to take on greater offensive responsibilities.
ECU opened the season riding its consistent pitching staff, while it waited for the offense to catch up. The likes of Jeff Hoffman and Ryan Williams kept the opposition at bay, while their teammates tried to find even the slightest bits of offense.
The Pirates waited, and games continued to get decided by one run. Nine of their first 17 games were decided in such fashion. Four of those nine down-to-the-wire games resulted in losses for ECU.
The last of those one-run losses came against Wake Forest. The Pirates jumped ahead 3-0 when Bryce Harman hit a homerun clear over the right field advertisement boards at Fleming Stadium in Wilson. The lead wouldn’t hold, though, as Wake Forest battled back to win the game 5-4. With that, ECU had sunk below .500.
Fultz scored his seventh run of the season via Harman’s homerun. After that game, he was 7-for-48 at the plate with only those seven runs and four RBI, but Fultz was poised to be a catalyst behind ECU’s resurgence.
After Wake Forest, ECU returned home for the Tulane series in which the offense finally broke loose. Even though the Pirates were routed 7-2 in the series opener, Fultz notched one hit in five chances. While he didn’t impact the decision, he began to string together what is now a seven-game hitting streak.
In the following day’s doubleheader, Fultz batted 2-for-8 and accounted for five of the day’s 18 runs (two runs, three RBI). After Townsend opened the inning with a solo homerun, Fultz made his presence felt with a three-run homer to right field. ECU’s offense seemed to come out of nowhere in that eight-run inning, but Fultz had been gradually building toward such an outburst.
Fultz continues to roll and shows no sign of stopping. His hit streak heading into yeterday’s game against North Carolina Central stood at seven consecutive games. In those seven games, Fultz is 11-for-32 at the plate. He’s also scored four runs and 12 RBI.
Fultz’s performance is only a microcosm of what ECU’s offense has quickly become. The Pirates rolled into Charlotte this past weekend and swept the 49ers. They outscored the UNC-Charlotte 18-10 en route to a trio of victories.
The Pirates will need this trend to continue. They’re still only two games above .500. Next Wednesday marks their biggest game of the season when they travel to Raleigh for the first of two games versus North Carolina State.