No. 25 East Carolina strolls past N.C. Central|Pirates pick up sixth straight win

Published 7:43 am Sunday, March 28, 2010

By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — Leadoff batter Trent Whitehead set the tone, homering and scoring four times as the No. 25 East Carolina Pirates strolled to a 15-2 victory over winless N.C. Central.
The win, coming on a sunny Saturday in front of 3,247 fans at Clark-LeClair Stadium, was the sixth straight for the Pirates (15-8). ECU took advantage of 11 hits, 15 walks and four errors by the Eagles (0-21).
ECU has outscored Central 45-6 in the first two games of the series.
“I just challenged the guys to take what they gave us,” ECU coach Billy Godwin said of the Eagles. “It’s kind of tough as a hitter to dig in when (pitchers) are all around the plate. Our guys did a good job.”
The only negative to Saturday’s game was the early departure of first baseman Kyle Roller, a preseason All-American who was injured in the seventh inning. Roller, who was celebrating his birthday Saturday, was hurt when Edward Pegues ran into him while reaching on a two-out error.
Roller, the usual designated hitter who was making his fifth start at first base, appeared to injure his wrist after the awkward run-in at the bag.
“I think (Roller’s status) is going to be day-to-day,” Godwin said. “Originally, it doesn’t look terrible, but sometimes you don’t know until the second day. He just got jammed up with the glove and the ball.”
Whitehead’s (2-3, HR, 4 runs, RBI) solo shot to start the sixth, coming on a 3-1 offering, gave ECU a 7-2 advantage. It was the junior’s first home run of the season.
Whitehead, who now has 11 career home runs, hadn’t homered since May 30, 2009, a span of 26 games.
The home run was the 150th hit of Whitehead’s career. It also gave the former Washington Pam Pack star his 70th career RBI.
“It felt good,” Whitehead said of the home run. “I’ve been struggling this year and I couldn’t find the hole when I put the ball in play. To get the first home run of the season definitely took a lot of pressure off and gave me a little confidence boost.”
Whitehead, who matched a career-high by scoring four times, added a double in the seventh. Prior to Saturday’s game, the leadoff batter had just three extra-base hits in 76 at bats.
“I hadn’t really been driving the ball,” Whitehead said. “It seems like when I did, it was right where somebody was standing. I think this game really helped with my confidence.
“I was down on myself. After today’s game, I feel pretty good. Scoring (the four runs) feels good. Being the leadoff guy, you definitely want to score some runs.”
ECU starter Seth Maness (4-2) was effective in notching his fourth win of the year. The junior allowed two runs on five hits, striking out seven and walking one over six innings.
Nate Smith’s RBI-double in the first gave the Eagles the early lead.
ECU tied it in the bottom half. Dustin Harrington, who had singled and stolen second and third, scored on an error.
Corey Thompson’s (2-6, 3 RBIs) two-run double in the third off Central starter Drew Robinson (0-5) gave the Pirates a 3-1 lead. That proved to be the difference.
“We’re just trying to swing the bat a little better,” Thompson said. “We’re trying to get to where we can drive the baseball.”
Three more runs in the fourth, two coming on a two-out error by center fielder Akeem Hood, extended the lead to 6-1. Harrington (2-4, RBI) added a sac fly in the inning.
Pegues led off the fifth with a home run, pulling the Eagles within 6-2. Maness had retired six straight and eight of nine prior to the homer.
After Whitehead’s homer, Austin Homan and Jared Avchen drew bases-loaded walks later in the sixth to make it 9-2. It was Homan’s fourth free pass of the game.
Whitehead’s leadoff double in the seventh set the tone for a six-run seventh. He eventually scored on an error. Billy Walling hit a two-run double, Thompson had an RBI-double, Philip Clark added a run-scoring single and Zach Wright had a sac fly to push the lead to 15-2.
Shawn Armstrong (3 K’s), Jake Harris and Brad Mincey (1 K, 1 BB) each pitched one inning of relief.
The series finale is set for 1 p.m. today. Mike Wright (1-1) will start for ECU, while Douglas Dailey (0-0) will throw for the Eagles.