Cotton dazzles in win over Wave
GREENVILLE — Jharel Cotton collected his Conference USA-best eighth win behind a career-high 12 strikeout performance and No. 27 East Carolina (28-16-1, 10-7-1 C-USA) avoided a series sweep with a 6-3 victory over Tulane (29-15, 7-8) Sunday afternoon at Lewis Field inside Clark-LeClair Stadium.
Cotton (8-0) allowed just two runs (both earned) on four hits and issued one walk in seven innings. The St. Thomas, Virgin Islands native struck out two batters in five of the seven stanzas (at least one in each frame) and retired the side in order four times.
The East Carolina lineup provided Cotton plenty of cushion early as the Pirates scored three runs in the first courtesy of a three-run homer by senior Zach Wright (1-for-3, three RBI). Tim Younger led off the first with an infield single behind the bag at third base and advanced to second on John Wooten’s two-out base knock off the glove of Bowen Woodson at second. Wright then blasted a 2-1 offering from Tulane starter Tyler Mapes over the wall in left to give ECU a 3-0 advantage.
Wright’s round-tripper, the 34th of his career, moved him into a tie for 10th place alongside Brandon Henderson (2006-09) on the program’s all-time home run list.
The Pirates padded their lead with a pair of runs in the second. Jack Reinheimer (1-for-4, R) led off the inning with a single up the middle and took second on Philip Clark’s sacrifice bunt. Chris Gosik hit a grounder to Brennan Middleton at shortstop, whose throw to first sailed wide of Sean Potkay, putting runners at the corners. Reinheimer scored on a wild pitch and Gosik eventually scored on Drew Reynolds’ single to left.
Mapes (1-3) was lifted after Reynolds’ RBI knock and replaced by Alex Massey. Mapes lasted just 1 2/3 frames, allowed five runs (four earned) on five hits, and struck out a pair.
Tulane trimmed its deficit to 5-2 in the third. Middleton drew a one-out walk and scored a batter later when Bowen Woodson ripped a double into the left field corner. Woodson eventually crossed home following Garrett Cannizaro’s two-out RBI single to left.
Massey silenced the East Carolina bats until the fifth. With two outs and nobody on, Wooten (3-for-4, two doubles, two runs) lined a double that caromed off the left-field wall and Wright followed by drawing a walk. Chase McDonald (2-for-3) drove in Wooten with a single through the middle of the infield to give the Pirates a 6-2 edge.
Massey was effective in relief for the Green Wave, yielding just one run (earned) on four hits in 5 1/3 stanzas before being replaced by Alex Facundus, who struck out one in a scoreless frame.
Brandon Boudreaux hit a solo home run off freshman Jeff Hoffman in the eighth to pull Tulane within three. Hoffman allowed two hits and struck out one in his lone inning of work.
Reynolds retired Tulane in order in the ninth to earn his ninth save of the season, which ties him for the C-USA lead with UCF’s Joe Rogers.
Cannizaro and Jeremy Schaffer each notched multi-hit games for the Green Wave.
After taking off four days for the spring semester exam period, the Pirates return to the diamond Friday, May 4 when they host Marshall at 6 p.m. (EST) to begin a three-game league series with the Thundering Herd.