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ECU extends win streak to nine

By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — Maybe it was the green hats. Whatever the case, the No. 25 East Carolina Pirates used a little bit of luck on St. Patrick’s Day to sweep Michigan in a doubleheader in a combined 21 innings of baseball.
Playing in front of 2,621 fans on a chilly Saturday at Clark-LeClair Stadium, the Pirates beat Michigan 2-1 in the first game and followed that up with a 3-2 nod in 12 innings in the nightcap. Brandon Henderson’s two-out single in the 12th won it.
The 12 innings tied for the fourth longest in school history. The longest game in ECU’s history is 15 innings, a 7-6 win over North Carolina on April 9, 1979.
ECU (15-6) has now won nine straight and 13 of its last 14 games. The winning streak is the longest since the Pirates won 19 straight in 2004.
ECU’s relievers played a big factor in the wins over Michigan (6-6). The relievers combined to throw 11 innings of shutout ball, scattering five hits and striking out 18 batters.
Shane Mathews was brilliant, earning the win in the second game after notching a save in the first. In the two games of the doubleheader, Mathews fanned nine in 2 2/3 innings.
ECU reliever Jason Neitz appeared in both games of the doubleheader. He didn’t allow a hit and struck out five batters in 3 1/3 innings.
FIRST GAME
ECU 2, Michigan 1
T.J. Hose (4-2) was solid, allowing one run on three hits in six innings. The junior, who struck out four and walked two, won his fourth straight decision.
The Pirates took a 1-0 lead in the first off Michigan starter Zach Putnam (2-2) on an RBI-single by Stephen Batts.
Batts made it 2-0 in the fifth. He led off with a single into left and then proceeded to steal second and third. On the steal of third, Michigan catcher Chris Berset threw the ball into left, allowing Batts to score.
That’s all Putnam (two runs on eight hits with four strikeouts and three walks in 5 2/3 innings) would allow.
The Wolverines pulled within 2-1 in the sixth when Hose ran into some trouble. A single, fielder’s choice and walk loaded the bases with one out. Hose uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Eric Rose to score to make it a one-run game.
Three ECU relievers combined to throw three scoreless innings. Mathews closed it out, striking out two and picking up his seventh save.
The Pirates, who got their leadoff batter on board in each of the first six innings, stranded 12 runners.
SECOND GAME
ECU 3, Michigan 2, 12 innings
Dale Mollenhauer dropped down a one-out bunt single to get aboard to start the 12th. After Batts walked, Mike Wilson came on for Chris Fetter (0-1), who was solid in relief of starter Andrew Hess. Fetter went 5 1/3 innings and allowed one run on three hits while striking out five and walking one.
With two outs, Henderson stroked a single into center to score Mollenhauer with the game winner. Henderson had been 0-for-8 on the day leading up to the clutch hit.
Pitching was the story in the nightcap. Mathews (1-2) picked up the win. He allowed one hit while striking out seven and walking one in 1 2/3 innings. Mathews struck out the side in the top of the 12th.
Starter Dustin Sasser and four relievers combined to fan 19 batters in the game. The ECU record is 20, set in 1970 against George Washington. Hal Baird threw all 20 strikeouts.
Michigan took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI-single by Putnam.
ECU tied it in the bottom half on a groundout RBI by Ryan Tousley.
Sasser didn’t make it out of the fifth inning. The junior, who allowed two runs on seven hits in four innings while striking out six and walking two, left with a 2-1 deficit and the bases loaded in the fifth.
The Wolverines loaded the bases with a walk and two singles. Nate Recknagel’s single into right scored one to give Michigan a 2-1 lead. Josh Dowdy (one hit and two strikeouts in two innings) came on and kept it a one-run game by retiring three straight, two by strikeout.
Jake Dean tied the game, 2-2, in the sixth with a two-out RBI single off Michigan starter Andrew Hess (two runs on four hits with six strikeouts and three walks in six innings).
Henderson’s RBI-single in the 12th ended the long day of baseball.
The Pirates return to action Wednesday at home for a 7 p.m. game against High Point. ECU will then begin Conference USA play Friday through Sunday at home against Memphis. The Pirates conclude their 20-game homestand March 28 against UNC-Wilmington.