Pirates top Red Storm, fall to No. 11 Cowboys

Published 6:37 am Saturday, February 28, 2009

By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — Fittingly, Brandon Henderson, who wears the No. 23 jersey in honor of former East Carolina coaching great Keith LeClair, got the No. 23 Pirates off to a hot start in the 6th Annual Keith LeClair Classic.
The senior banged out three hits, including a home run, and drove in three runs to help lead the Pirates to a 9-7 victory over the St. John’s Red Storm (2-2) in the first of two games Friday at Clark-LeClair Stadium.
Henderson homered and drove in three more runs in the second game, but the Pirates (5-1) fell 7-6 to the No. 11 Oklahoma State Cowboys (6-1).
Coach Billy Godwin said he was proud of the way his senior first baseman performed in the tournament named in honor of LeClair.
The two games were played in front of 4,047 fans.
ECU is scheduled to play the College of Charleston at 2 p.m. Sunday, but inclement weather is expected.
Game 1
Every ECU starter had at least one hit in a 16-hit assault as the Pirates rallied past the Red Storm.
A two-run home run by Tim Morris and an RBI-single by Greg Hopkins gave the Red Storm a 3-0 lead in the first inning.
Henderson jacked a solo homer and Devin Harris blasted a two-run shot to tie the game in the second.
Henderson’s RBI-single in the third gave ECU a 4-3 lead.
The Pirates chased St. John’s starter Nick Cenatiempo (6 runs, 9 hits in 4 1/3 innings) in the fifth after run-scoring singles by Henderson and Drew Schieber, which gave them a 6-3 lead.
Danny Beneditti greeted ECU reliever Brad Mincey with a game-tying, three-run homer in the sixth. ECU starter Chris Heston (5 runs, 6 hits in 5 1/3 innings) was lifted earlier in the frame.
Mincey (1-0), who allowed one run on three hits in 2 2/3 innings, ended up getting the win.
Kyle Roller’s sac fly scored Trent Whitehead, who had singled earlier, for a 7-6 edge in the sixth.
Dustin Harrington hit a solo shot and Whitehead ripped an RBI-double in the seventh for a 9-6 advantage. The runs came off Eddie Medina (0-1), who was tagged with the loss.
Joe Panik’s RBI-single pulled the Red Storm within 9-7 in the ninth, before Bailey Daniels closed it out, earning his first save of the year.
Whitehead, a former standout with the Washington Pam Pack, got the start in center field, and was ECU’s leadoff batter. The sophomore was moved to right field in the seventh, and came up with an amazing catch in the inning.
Whitehead raced into foul territory on a ball hit by Jimmy Parque, snagged the ball while reaching his glove over the fence, then proceeded to tumble head first over the fence and into the St. John’s bullpen.
He immediately sprang to his feet, pulled the ball from his glove and flashed it to the umpire.
Whitehead recorded five putouts in the game, including all three outs in the fifth inning. He went 2-for-5 at the plate with a double, RBI and run scored.
Game 2
For the fourth straight game, the Pirates found themselves in an early hole. This time, they weren’t able to pull out the victory.
Neil Medchill’s two-run blast in the first gave the Cowboys the early lead.
Whitehead ripped a leadoff double and Ryan Wood followed with a game-tying two-run blast in the third.
Medchill’s second dinger of the game, a colossal shot into right, ended a string of eight consecutive outs recorded by ECU starter Seth Maness (5 runs, 6 hits, 8 strikeouts in 7 innings) and helped to give the Cowboys a 4-2 advantage in the fourth.
The Pirates rallied with four runs in the seventh. Henderson delivered the key blow with a three-run blast to center off Cowboy starter and All-American Andrew Oliver (2-0), giving ECU a 6-4 advantage.
Eric Walker led off the eighth with Oklahoma State’s third home run of the game, and Doug Kroll’s two-run double down the line in left gave the Cowboys a 7-6 lead.
ECU tried to rally in the ninth. Henderson slapped a two-out single and Roller followed with a walk. However, reliever Randy McCurry got Drew Schieber to fly out in foul territory in right to end it.
ECU reliever Patrick Somers (0-1) was charged with the loss. Oliver (6 runs, 8 hits, 7 strikeouts in 7 innings) got the win, while McCurry earned his third save.