East Carolina storms back to win its 14th straight game
By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — Fittingly, after waiting 45 minutes to play because of a hail storm, the No. 19 East Carolina Pirates stormed back to take an 11-10 win over UNC-Wilmington in 10 innings to cap off a 20-game homestand.
Wednesday’s win in front of 2,952 fans at Clark-LeClair Stadium was the 14th straight for the Pirates (20-6, 3-0 Conference USA). The win streak, the longest in the nation and the team’s 18th in 19th games, is tied for the fourth longest in school history.
The school record is 19 straight in 2004. The 1986 and 1989 clubs won 15 consecutive games, tying for the second best in history.
Dale Mollenhauer led off the 10th with a single up the middle, tying his career-high for four hits in a game, off reliever Larry Salefsky (0-2). The junior went to second on a ground out. Ryan Tousley was issued an intentional walk.
With Corey Kemp at the plate, Mollenhauer took off for third base. Wilmington catcher Mark Carver’s throw sailed into the outfield, allowing Mollenhauer to score the game-winner.
Closer Shane Mathews (2-2), ECU’s seventh pitcher of the game, celebrated his birthday in style by getting the win. The junior struck out three and walked one in 2 2/3 innings of relief.
ECU battled back from 8-0 and 10-5 deficits to take the win. Stephen Batts, Ryan Tousley and Ryan Wood all homered to help East Carolina rally.
It was the fifth straight game the Pirates have scored in double digits, the first time they have done that since a five-game stretch in 2004.
The ECU pitching staff gave up a season-high 17 hits, eclipsing the previous high of 14 in an 11-4 win over Duke. Seven players for Wilmington (12-16), which has now dropped four straight, had multiple hits. Jason Appel and Bobby Leeper each had three hits to lead the way.
ECU starter Bailey Daniels didn’t make it out of the first inning. Six of the first eight batters had hits. Jonathan Batts, Carver and Leeper had consecutive RBI-singles, while Nate Hall crushed a two-run double to make it 5-0.
Consecutive run-scoring doubles by Jonathan Batts and Carver pushed Wilmington’s lead to 7-0, chasing reliever Josh Ruhlman, in the second. Leeper greeted Mike Flye, ECU’s third pitcher, with an RBI-triple to extend the advantage to 8-0.
Brandon Henderson’s RBI-single in the bottom of the second got ECU on the scoreboard.
The Pirates tacked on two more runs in the third, coming off a sacrifice fly by Stephen Batts and a groundout by Tousley, to make it 8-3.
ECU pulled within 8-5 in the fourth. Stephen Batts walked with the bases loaded to force in one run and a Tousley sacrifice plated another.
ECU senior left-hander Jeff Ostrander came on in the fifth, making his first appearance since a 7-4 win over Liberty on Feb. 10. It was a rough start as Grayson Evans and Hall hit back-to-back home runs to give the Seahawks a 10-5 lead. Ostrander faced five batters and gave up three hits.
The Pirates pulled within a run in the sixth. Stephen Batts launched a three-run blast into center, his first of the season, to make it 10-8. Batts, who leads the team with 29 RBIs, has driven in 16 in the last five games. His five-RBI performance on Wednesday was a career-high.
Tousley followed with a solo shot, his team-best sixth of the year, to pull the Pirates within 10-9.
Wood tied the game, 10-10, in the seventh with a two-out homer off reliever Ryan Doolittle. It was Wood’s first of the year.
Reliever Brett Butts did a solid job in keeping the Pirates in the game, pitching 2/13 innings of one-hit ball.
Mathews shut down the Seahawks the rest of the way, which allowed Mollenhauer to score the game-winner in the 10th inning.
The Pirates return to C-USA play Friday through Sunday at Tulane (19-7, 3-0), their first road games since Feb. 18. After playing at N.C. State on April 4, ECU returns home to host No. 8 Rice, April 6-8.