Pirates slam door on Liberty

Published 8:15 am Monday, February 12, 2007

By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — East Carolina tripped up Liberty in more ways than one.
The Pirates were able to take the series against the Flames thanks to an 11-2 win on a sunny, chilly Sunday afternoon in front of 2,420 fans at Clark-LeClair Stadium. Dale Mollenhauer hit his first career grand slam and Dustin Sasser pitched six strong innings to give ECU (2-1) its second win in as many days against Liberty (1-2).
Sasser (1-0) was solid in his first start of the season. The junior southpaw allowed a run on five hits in six innings, striking out three and walking two.
The Pirates broke open a tie game with a seven-run sixth inning, highlighted by Mollenhauer’s grand slam. Mollenhauer (2-for-4) had extended his hitting streak to 11 games dating back to last season earlier in the game.
Jake Dean, who started the season 1-for-10, ripped an RBI-double to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead. Ryan Tousley slapped a one-out single into left and raced home on Dean’s two-out gapper into right-center, which chased Liberty starter David Stokes (0-1). The 6-8 right-hander allowed three earned runs on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings of work, striking out one and walking one.
Jamie Ray greeted reliever Dane Beakler by lacing a single into right, which scored pinch-runner Mark Letchworth. An RBI-single by Harrison Eldridge pushed the lead to 4-1.
ECU proceeded to load the bases against reliever Grady Ihnat. Things went from bad to worst for the freshman relief pitcher. After tripping and falling down while running from the bullpen onto the field just moments earlier, Ihnat surrendered the grand slam to Mollenhauer that gave ECU an 8-1 cushion.
The Pirates took a 1-0 lead in the first. Eldridge (4-for-5 with three runs on Sunday, 7-for-12 on the season) led off with a sharp single up the middle. Eldridge stole second and scored on Brandon Henderson’s double into left.
Liberty tied it in the fifth. The Flames got their first two batters aboard, courtesy of an Aaron Phillips single and a double by Tommy Bussey. Kenneth Negron followed by hitting a screamer back at Sasser, who avoided injury by somehow knocking the ball down and throwing the batter out at first.
Patrick Gaillard followed by grounding out to short, which scored Phillips to tie the game at 1-1.
That’s all the Flames would get.
ECU tacked on another run in the seventh. Corey Kemp got his first hit as a Pirate with a single. Later in the inning, freshman Kyle Roller collected his first collegiate hit, a pinch-hit RBI-single up the middle that made it 9-1.
Nate Thompson’s RBI-single off ECU reliever Joe O’Malley in the eighth pulled Liberty within 9-2.
ECU scored twice in its half of the eighth. Tousley’s RBI-double into right scored Eldridge, while Kemp’s single plated Tousley for an 11-2 lead.
Mike Flye, Jason Neitz, O’Malley and Shane Mathews all pitched in relief for the Pirates.
The Pirates return to action Friday for a three-game series at UCLA. Games times are 9 p.m. Friday, 5 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday.
ECU returns to Clark-LeClair Stadium on Feb. 21 against Campbell to start a 21-game home stand.