Battery of Heston, Avchen charge up East Carolina

Published 5:26 am Sunday, February 22, 2009

By Staff
By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — It was just like old times at Bayside High School and Seminole Community College in Florida.
ECU’s battery mates of pitcher Chris Heston and catcher Jared Avchen, former prep and junior college teammates, were certainly in sync Saturday. Heston fired seven strong innings of two-hit ball and Avchen smacked three hits for the Pirates in a 5-1 victory over the Monmouth Hawks.
The Pirates, getting their second straight quality start, opened the season 2-0 for the first time since 2004 (that team went 12-0 to begin the year).
While the offense wasn’t as explosive as Friday, the Pirates collected double-digit hits for the second straight day, finishing with 11 in front of 3,313 fans at sunny Clark-LeClair Stadium. Avchen (3-for-4, RBI) led the team with his three hits while Brandon Henderson (2-for-3, RBI) and Dustin Harrington (2-for-4) had two apiece.
However, the story of the day was Heston. He was sharp in his Pirates’ debut, fanning nine and surrendering just one run on two hits in seven innings of work.
Heston said having a familiar face behind the plate certainly helped.
Heston gave up a single to Brett Holland on the first pitch of the game, then proceeded to retire the next 11 Hawks (0-2) in a row. He also finished strongly, retiring the final nine batters he faced, five by strikeout.
ECU fourth-year coach Billy Godwin was impressed with his starter’s performance.
ECU gave Heston some early run support with a three-spot in the second inning. Drew Schieber’s two-run blast off Monmouth starter Ryan Buch (0-1), a junior on the Brooks Wallace Player of the Year Watch List, was the big blow.
Kyle Roller (1-for-2, RBI) drew a one-out walk and Schieber (1-for-4, HR, 2 RBIs) followed with a smash over the wall in right. Trent Whitehead (1-for-3), a former standout with the Washington Pam Pack, drew the second walk off Buch. Whitehead raced home on Avchen’s double down the left field line for the 3-0 lead.
Monmouth catcher Bobby Dombrowski accidentally kicked Whitehead in the face as the ECU sophomore was sliding across home plate.
Whitehead, who had two putouts from his right field spot, made his first start of the season. He collected his second hit of the season with a two-strike single in the eighth.
ECU went up 4-0 in the third on an RBI-single by Henderson. That helped end the day for Buch, who allowed four runs on three hits in three innings of work.
Nick Pulsonetti led off Monmouth’s half of the fifth with a single, ending a string of 11 consecutive batters sat down by Heston. Pulsonetti later scored on Dombrowski’s grounder that made it 4-1.
Monmouth reliever Nick McNamara kept it a three-run game, allowing two hits in three scoreless innings.
The Pirates tacked on an insurance run in the seventh on the strength of three singles. Stephen Batts (1-for-4) got it started with a two-out single into left. After Henderson’s second hit of the day, Roller spanked an RBI-single into center for a 5-1 lead.
Brad Mincey pitched a scoreless eighth, walking one in the process.
Seth Simmons closed it out, walking one and striking out two.
ECU junior right-hander Mike Anderson (1-1, 3.00 ERA in 2007) squares off against Monmouth sophomore righty John McDonald (0-0, 6.75 ERA in 2008) in today’s series finale.