Pirates tripped up by Bulldogs
By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — It wasn’t exactly a pretty tune-up for the No. 5 North Carolina Tar Heels.
The East Carolina Pirates must have forgotten to pack the momentum with them when they left Houston on Sunday. Fresh off a three-game sweep of the Cougars, the Pirates looked a bit flat in an 8-6 loss to The Citadel on Tuesday at Clark-LeClair Stadium.
The Bulldogs (26-21), which had lost six of their previous seven games, banged out 15 hits in the win.
The loss snapped a four-game winning streak by the Pirates (32-16), whose late rally made things a little interesting.
The Pirates will look to regroup in a hurry as they host the No. 5 Heels at 7 p.m. Jeff Ostrander is slated to start for the Pirates, while North Carolina will use a by-committee approach.
North Carolina took a 10-0 win over ECU on April 24. The Heels hold a 37-24 lead in the all-time series, which includes wins in the last six meetings.
ECU’s last victory over North Carolina was a 2-1 nod on April 17, 2002.
Ryan Wood was one of the lone bright spots for the Pirates. The sophomore, who went 4-5 with four RBIs, had his first career two-homer game, blasting a two-run shot in the third and a solo shot in the seventh. Wood also had an RBI single in the eighth.
Stephen Batts extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a single in the third.
The Bulldogs started the scoring early. Richard Jones (3-5, HR, 2B) led off the second with his ninth home run of the season to give The Citadel a 1-0 lead.
Wood’s two-run shot to left-center in the third gave the Pirates a 2-1 lead.
The Citadel tied it in the top of the fourth on an RBI single by Chance Smith, who banged out three hits on the night.
Some sloppy defense by the Pirates in the fifth allowed the Bulldogs to take a 4-2 lead. Sonny Meade’s (2-5, three RBIs) groundout scored Chris Swauger, who had reached on a two-base error and gone to third on a passed ball. Zach Brown, who singled and reached third on another ECU error, scored when Bryan Altman reached on a fielder’s choice.
ECU had a chance to cut into its deficit in the bottom of the fifth, loading the bases with two outs. However, Kyle Roller’s screamer went directly to right fielder Joe Hoerter, who gloved the liner to end the threat.
The Bulldogs padded their lead in the next inning, going up 6-2 in the sixth on Meade’s two-out, two-run single.
The Citadel tacked on two more runs in the seventh. Hoerter, who had the first hit of his career in the inning, and Kyle Jordan had RBI singles to extend the lead to 8-2.
The run support was more than enough for Bulldog starter Justin Smith (6-2), who earned the win. He allowed two runs on six hits in six innings, striking out four and walking three.
Wood’s fifth homer of the season in the bottom of the seventh made it an 8-3 game.
The Pirates pulled within 8-6 in the eighth. After loading the bases thanks to three consecutive walks, Jake Dean scored on a wild pitch and Drew Schieber scored on Jamie Ray’s groundout. Wood’s RBI single capped the scoring.
Bulldog reliever Nick Sprowls closed it out for his second save.
ECU starter Mike Anderson had a short leash against the Bulldogs. The freshman was lifted after just 2 1/3 innings of work. Anderson, who struck out one and beaned two batters, allowed a run on five hits.
Josh Ruhlman (4-1) went 3 2/3 innings in relief, allowing six runs (four earned) on seven hits with three strikeouts. He was tagged with the loss.
Chris Powell, who struck out two, allowed a run on three hits in 2 1/3 innings.
Jason Neitz struck out two of the three batters he faced.
Following tonight’s game against North Carolina, ECU will host UCF in a three-game C-USA series starting Friday.