No. 26 Pirates blaze past UAB|Homan drives in five runs for ECU

Published 11:19 am Sunday, April 18, 2010

By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — Kyle Roller’s monstrous three-run blast in the first inning got the No. 26 East Carolina Pirates rolling. Austin Homan, who drove in a career-high five runs, helped it continue in a 12-7 win over the UAB Blazers on Saturday.
The offensive onslaught, coming in front of 3,681 fans at Clark-LeClair Stadium, helped the Pirates win their fifth straight.
“This is the first opportunity we’ve had to talk about sweeping,” ECU coach Billy Godwin said. “It’s going to be tough. Our guys will have to come out for an early morning start (10 a.m.) and be hungry.”
ECU (23-12, 5-3 C-USA) banged out 14 hits in the game. Leadoff batter Trent Whitehead (4-5, 2B, SB, 2 runs) led the way with four hits.
“The four hits felt good,” Whitehead said. “Hitting is contagious. The guys were swinging the bats well.”
Whitehead made the defensive play of the game in the top of the second. The speedy center fielder raced into deep left-center field, leapt at the base of the warning track, stuck his glove over the wall and robbed Ryan Ussery of a home run.
“The amazing catch was kind of unnecessary,” Whitehead said with a laugh. “That’s what some of my teammates had to say. It wasn’t going out.”
Homan (3-5, 5 RBIs) added three hits while Corey Thompson (2-3, 2 runs), John Wooten (2-4, 3 runs, RBI) and Devin Harris (2-4, 2B, 2 RBIs) had two apiece.
“As a (designated hitter) that’s what you want to do,” Homan said about his RBIs. “Your sole job is to swing the bat and get some hits.”
The Pirates provided ECU starter Seth Maness (7-2) with plenty of offensive support. The junior won his seventh straight in beating the Blazers (20-14, 5-6 C-USA), overcoming five ECU errors.
Maness, who is now 15-1 in his career in C-USA games, allowed six runs (three earned) and scattered nine hits in seven innings of work. He struck out six and walked one.
“I hit some good pitches,” Maness said. “Luckily, I did enough to keep our team in it.
“All the weekend series are big. It’s fun to get out here and throw well and help the team win.”
Roller, who has reached safely in all 34 games he’s played this season, delivered the big blow in ECU’s five-run first inning.
Whitehead, a former standout with the Washington Pam Pack, ignited the early uprising with a sharp single into right. Thompson followed with a single into center.
Roller (1-4, HR, 4 RBIs) cleared the bases in a hurry, turning on a 3-1 offering from UAB starter Beau Pender (4-2) and sending it well beyond the right field fence.
Harris and Homan added RBI singles in the frame.
“I was just trying to do my job,” Roller said. “I wanted to get that first run in. I was just trying to get something in the air to drive him in. It was a change-up up around my belt and I got the good part of the bat on it.”
Roller’s homer was his eighth of the season, and the 47th of his career, tying him with John Williamson (1998-01) for second all-time. Winfred Johnson (1983-86) owns the career home run record with 70.
Roller has knocked in 192 runs, which ranks third best. Johnson holds the record with 221 while Williamson’s 206 is second highest.
UAB got on the scoreboard in the top of the third. Blazer leadoff batter Jamal Austin (4-5, 2B, RBI), who is having a terrific series (7 for 10), led off with a single. Nick Crawford (3-5, 2B, 3 runs) followed with a double. Both runners scored when Jonathan Merritt reached on a Thompson error at short.
Homan’s RBI single in the bottom half made it 6-2.
Thompson’s second error of the game, and his team-leading 16th of the year, led to two more UAB runs in the fourth. The Blazers pulled within 6-4 because of the miscue.
ECU has committed at least one error in 10 straight games. The Pirates have committed 58 errors in 35 games, including 36 in the past 17 games.
Homan’s two-run double highlighted ECU’s four-run fourth, which gave the Pirates a 10-4 lead.
Luke Stewart’s (1-4, 3 RBIs) RBI single in the fifth cut the ECU lead in half, 10-5.
Homan’s groundout scored another run in the sixth for an 11-5 advantage.
Stewart’s sac fly in the seventh made it 11-6.
Roller’s groundout plated a run for 12-6 lead in the bottom of the inning.
Pirate southpaw Kevin Brandt (3-4) gets the nod for today’s series finale, slated for a 10 a.m. start.