Published 11:16 am Friday, April 18, 2014
By Michael Prunka
For The Washington Daily News
East Carolina opened up the series with Middle Tennessee with a 1-0 win. The low-scoring affair was highlighted by a career performance from starting pitcher Jeff Hoffman.
With Chicago Cubs President Theo Epstein in attendance in Clark-LeClair Stadium, Hoffman struck out 16 Middle Tennessee batters. He struck out multiple batters in six of the eight innings he pitched and struck out the side twice. His previous career high was 14 strikeouts against Western Kentucky in this season’s Keith LeClair Classic.
“Everything was in the zone,” Hoffman said. “Everything felt good out of the hand and a great defense behind me. [Zach] Houchins made a nice play on the third baseline. I had a lot of confidence in my catcher back there. [Pitching] coach [Dan] Roszel called a great game. Everything was kind of working tonight.”
Hoffman delivered such a performance in front a handful of scouts. Among them were Chicago’s Epstein and White Sox Vice President Kenny Williams.
“It starts with the fastball command,” said manager Billy Godwin regarding Hoffman’s array of pitches. “He was able to throw his breaking ball for strikes and he was able to spot his breaking ball. He threw his changeup enough to keep them at bay. You throw a 97 with an 81 mile-per-hour curve ball and a good changeup, it makes it real difficult to hit. He was really dialed in tonight.”
Ian Townsend had an impressive night, too. He notched his sixth game-winning RBI of the season and third in six games. Blue Raiders’ starter Zac Curtis walked Dylan Brown, who then reached scoring position on a single by Drew Reynolds. Townsend hit a sac-fly to right field that plated Brown for the only run of the game.
That wasn’t all Townsend did to ensure an ECU win. In the top of the ninth, the Blue Raiders had two on base with two outs. Michael Adkins singled to right field and Townsend made a remarkable throw to Eric Tyler at home to preserve the win.
“In that situation,” said Godwin, “two-out hits are hard to come by, especially in a game like that…Ian made a good throw. That’s a play we practice a lot in practice. We call it ‘do-or-die.’ The game’s on the line right there and you got to make a great throw at the plate.”
ECU and Middle Tennessee will wrap up the series with a doubleheader on Friday. The first game is scheduled to start at 2 p.m.