Pirates drop season opener
By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — Cold days always seem a bit chillier when you’re on the losing end. It must have been downright frigid in the East Carolina locker room.
The Pirates dropped their season opener on a sunny, chilly Friday afternoon in front 2,828 fans at Clark-LeClair Stadium, falling 6-2 to the Liberty Flames.
For ECU (0-1), it was its first opening-day loss since suffering an 8-3 loss to North Carolina in 1999. Liberty (1-0) got a grand slam from Errol Hollinger that proved to be the difference.
The Flames got off to a hot start as Hollinger’s grand slam in the second inning gave Liberty a 4-0 lead. Aaron Phillips led off by slapping a single into center off ECU starter T.J. Hose. Garrett Young laced a single up the middle and P.K. Keller drew a walk to set the table for Hollinger, who took Hose’s hanging slider and smashed it over the fence in left field. All the damage came with nobody out.
ECU cut its deficit in half in the third. Drew Schieber, batting ninth in the order, got the Pirates on the board with a solo shot into The Jungle in left. His first career home run pulled ECU within 4-1.
Harrison Eldridge followed Schieber’s homer with a single into center. He moved to second on a passed ball and then raced home on Dale Mollenhauer’s base hit into right.
Those are all the runs the Pirates would get.
Liberty’s Tyler Light made sure the Pirates wouldn’t mount a comeback. The reliever allowed just one hit while striking out three in five innings of relief.
Hose ran into more problems in the fourth. After Liberty loaded the bases against the junior, Hose walked Aaron Grijalva to force in a run, making it 5-2. That ended the day for Hose, who allowed five runs on seven hits in 3 2/3 innings. Hose struck out two and walked five.
ECU threatened in the bottom of the fourth, loading up the bases with two outs. However, Liberty starter Michael Solbach got Mollenhauer to fly out to left to end the inning.
Solbach went four innings and allowed two runs on five hits. He struck out two and walked two.
ECU added to its lead in the fifth, going up 6-2 on a solo shot by Young. The Flames had a chance to add more, but reliever Bailey Daniels struck out Patrick Gaillard with the bases loaded to end the threat.
Daniels went 2 2/3 innings, allowing a run on four hits with four strikeouts and one walk.
ECU also used relievers Jason Neitz (one strikeout and one walk in one-third of an inning), Mike Flye (two hits and two strikeouts in 1 1/3 innings), Josh Ruhlman (one strikeout and one walk in two-thirds of an inning) and Brett Butts (one strikeout in one-third of an inning) in the game.
Liberty had 13 hits and stranded 14 runners.
The Pirates collected six hits and left eight runners on base.
ECU left-hander Jeff Ostrander will face right-hander Dustin Umberger in today’s game, which starts at 2 p.m.
Southpaw Dustin Sasser gets the start Sunday for ECU against Liberty’s right-handed throwing David Stokes. That game will begin at 1 p.m.