Pirates complete sweep of Penguins
Bats come alive in series finale
GREENVILLE — After scoring only one run in Saturday’s victory over Youngstown State, East Carolina closed out the three-game series with an emphatic 10-0 win over the Penguins on Sunday to complete the sweep.
The Pirates out-scored Youngstown State 22-3 during the three-game span and improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2009 when they made it to the Super Regional round of the playoffs.
“As tough as this game is, it’s certainly tough to come out and get a sweep the first weekend,” East Carolina coach Billy Godwin said. “We got a lot of things we need to attack as a team, but it’s early and I think we did some very good things overall this weekend.”
East Carolina cruised past the Penguins (0-3, Horizon League) due to a dominant effort by its pitching staff which closed out the series riding an 18-inning scoreless streak.
The Pirates 6-5, 195-pound junior pitcher Michael Wright fought off heavy competition during spring training to earn the Sunday start and proved his worth as by using a quality two-seam fastball to scatter three hits in five scoreless innings while striking out one and walking one in 2011 debut.
“It’s such a confidence booster for everybody,” Wright said of the team’s sweep. “Our defense is amazing, so all I have to do is get ground balls.”
Overall, the Pirates used a total of six pitchers. Shawn Armstrong, Jake Harris and Seth Simmons each threw a total of one inning and recorded two strikeouts each. Freshman Austin Chrismon (1/3) and Brad Mincey (2/3) combined to pitch one inning.
While the pitching was stellar, the offense didn’t look so bad either. After Saturday’s struggles, the team came in early on Sunday to work on hitting and it paid of as the team racked up 10 runs on 11 hits.
The fireworks started in the fourth when the Pirates took a 1-0 lead on a Jack Reinheimer sac bunt that scored John Wooten. Reinheimer would reach first on an error by Penguins starter Robert Switka (4 IP, 6 hits 2K, 4 BB).
ECU followed up with another sac bunt by Philip Clark that allowed Zach Wright to cross home plate for a 2-0 lead.
After Switka issued walks to Tim Younger and Drew Reynolds, Trent Whitehead, who was batting in the No. 3 spot instead of his customary leadoff position, drilled a two-run double into the gap to put his team up 4-0.
For Whitehead, it was his first time not batting in the leadoff spot since 2009 when ECU beat No. 11 Oklahoma State 14-7.
“(Coach Godwin) told me this morning right before I got into the clubhouse. We have talked about (batting third) in the fall and in the preseason so it wasn’t that shocking to me. I just took it in stride and realized that it’s something that benefited the team.”
White finished the day 1-3 with a run and two RBIs and was thrilled to start the season with a sweep.
“It’s a good way to open up the year. We practice and scrimmage all the time but you don’t really know how good you are until you play an opponent,” Whitehead said. “We came out today against a quality opponent in Youngstown State and played well.”
After the four-run fourth, the Pirates added three runs in the fifth and another three in the sixth. Included in that scoring barrage was ECU’s first home run of the season, which happened to be the first-ever college home run for D.H. Chase McDonald.
McDonald, a hulking 6-4, 259-pound freshman from J.H. Rose, crushed a two-run bomb of reliever Cody Dirth over the left-center field fence to score the Pirates 9th and 10th runs of the game.
“It felt good to (get the first home run) out of the way,” McDonald said. “I saw the ball and I drove a line drive that just kept carrying.”
Aside from McDonald, ECU got quality production from John Wooten, Wright and Clark.
Wooten ended the day 2-for-4 with an RBI, Wright finished 2-for-4 with an RBI and Clark was 2-for-3 with two RBIs.
“It was good to see John get going today, I expected that from him. Good hitters come around,” Godwin said. “I was telling our team (Saturday) is that one thing I know is that they are going to hit … One thing I was really fired up about was that our guys were here early this morning hitting on their own and working and trying to get better.”
The Pirates will take a few days off and get back on the diamond Friday when they travel to No. 13 Virginia for a three-game series.