Woods strikes out career-high 15 to lift ECU above Phoenix|Wright hits third GS in five games

Published 8:11 am Wednesday, March 31, 2010

By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — Zach Woods dazzled on the mound, sitting down the Elon batters in a hurry.
Meanwhile, Zach Wright smashed his third grand slam in five games, helping to lead the No. 23 East Carolina Pirates to an 8-0 victory over the Phoenix.
Tuesday’s win, coming in front of 2,687 fans at Clark-LeClair Stadium, was the eighth straight for the Pirates (17-8). Elon saw its five-game winning streak come to a halt.
Woods (4-1) kept the Phoenix (15-10) guessing all game long. The junior struck out a career-high 15 batters and allowed just three hits and one walk in 7 2/3 innings.
“I think my fastball was my best pitch,” said Woods, who said he knew he’d be sharp after throwing the very first pitch of the game. “The coach called the pitch and I tried to locate it as best I could.”
After giving up a leadoff single to Justin Hilt (2-4), Woods settled down in a hurry. Hilt stole second, but Woods kept him stranded there by striking out the next three batters.
Woods faced just three batters over the minimum through seven innings, retiring 10 straight at one point. The crafty right-hander didn’t run into trouble until the eighth. Ben Scott hit a leadoff single, Hilt had a two-out single and Harry Austin was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
That ended the night for Woods, who left to a loud ovation. His 15 strikeouts were the second most in Pirate history. Hal Baird set the record of 20 strikeouts, coming in 1970.
Woods was hoping to finish the eighth, but ran out of gas.
“As a pitcher, you can always tell when your arm is getting a little bit tired,” Woods said. “Tired or not, I was trying to get that third out as much as I could. But, hey, Jake Harris came in and helped me out in a big way.”
Harris got Mike Melillo to fly out to Trent Whitehead in center, ending the threat and preserving the shutout. It was the first time Elon had been shutout since 2008.
Wright (2-5, HR, 2B, 4 RBIs) delivered the big blow with his towering grand slam in the third, which gave ECU a 5-0 lead. It was his team-high ninth homer of the year, and gave him a team-leading 28 RBIs.
With two outs, Kyle Roller, Corey Thompson and Devin Harris drew walks. Wright then belted a no-doubter over the fence in left on the first pitch he saw from Elon starter Dylan Clark (0-2).
“I’m seeing the ball really well,” Wright said. “The guy had just walked three people and coach (Billy) Godwin told me to find something in the zone. He throws 14 straight balls, I’m thinking he’s going to throw me something right down the middle.”
ECU took a 1-0 lead in the second. Wright hit a leadoff double and eventually scored on Cam Freeman’s groundout.
Dustin Harrington’s RBI-single in the fourth pushed the lead to 6-0.
ECU tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the fifth. Philip Clark brought in a run with a fielder’s choice and John Wooten scored on a wild pitch for an 8-0 advantage.
Whitehead (1-5), a former star at Washington High School, extended his hitting streak to five games with a single in the first.
The Pirates play host to UNC-Wilmington in a 6 p.m. game today. Joseph Hughes (1-0) will start for the Pirates.
ECU begins Conference USA play Friday at home in a 7 p.m. contest against Tulane. The teams will play a doubleheader beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday, which will conclude ECU’s 13-game homestand.