No. 16 Pirates to battle UAB

Published 12:46 pm Friday, April 3, 2009

By By GREG KATSKI, Staff Writer
Former Washington High School standout Trent Whitehead and the East Carolina baseball team look to keep the sticks scorching when they head to the Deep South to take on the University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers this weekend.
The Pirates will play a three game series with their Conference USA foes, starting today at 8 p.m.
Emerging ace Chris Heston will start the opener, while sophomore preseason All-C-USA starter Seth Maness will pitch the Saturday game, and freshman Kevin Brandt will start the rubber match on Sunday.
Heston boasts a 4-0 record with a 2.95 ERA, and is holding opponents to a .231 batting average.
ECU is coming off a 14-4 rout of in-state rival N.C. State on Wednesday in which the Pirates pumped out 11 hits and three home runs, including two by Whitehead. The win in Raleigh snapped a five-game losing streak to the Wolfpack and put the No. 16 Pirates at 22-5 on the season.
ECU is batting .361 as a team, with 44 home runs and 259 RBI in 27 games.
The Pirates’ offensive surge has been led by leadoff sophomore hitter Whitehead, batting at a .431 clip. Since moving into the leadoff role, the former Pam Pack great has been a sparkplug for ECU.
Following up Whitehead is senior captain Brandon Henderson. Henderson, who dons former ECU head coach Keith LeClair’s honorary No. 23 jersey, is hitting .405 with a .676 slugging percentage.
Junior designated hitter Kyle Roller leads the team in home runs and RBI, with eight and 36, respectively, and is hitting .373.
The Pirates will look to improve on their 5-1 record in conference and 4-2 record on the road. ECU swept the University of Central Florida to open up conference play in Greenville, and took two of three from Marshall in Huntington, W.Va.
The Blazers stand at 16-10 on the season, and are coming off a 9-2 win over Samford. UAB is riding a five-game winning streak, with three wins over Savannah State and two over Samford. The Blazers are 9-4 at home, and 1-2 in C-USA, losing their first conference series to Houston.
The Blazers are led by redshirt junior slugger Digger Towe, who sports a .425 average, with five home runs and a team-leading 36 RBI. Senior outfielder Cody McMurry and junior first baseman Luke Stewart share the team lead with eight home runs. McMurry has started all 26 games for the Blazers, batting at a .372 clip.
UAB is batting .335 as a team.