Pirates take third-straight Keith LeClair Classic

Published 10:05 pm Sunday, February 22, 2015

GREENVILLE — It took a late-night 9-2 victory over St. John’s for the East Carolina baseball team (2-4) to garner its third-consecutive Keith LeClair Classic title.

Despite suffering a 4-3 setback against No.24 Liberty early Sunday, the Pirates bounced back in their second game of the day and soundly defeated the Red Storm with the tournament title hopes on the line.

St. John’s, who defeated UNC-Greensboro and Liberty earlier in the classic, finished the tournament with an identical 2-1 record, but because the Pirates bested the Red Storm head to head, ECU was recognized as the champion.

St. John’s was outmatched against the Pirates as pitcher David Lucroy shut down the Red Storm offense and helped ECU finish the 12th annual classic as victors.

“You just have to be efficient and let your defense work,” said the junior righty who finished the game after going seven innings allowing just five hits and one run.

Backing up Lucroy, the ECU offense manufactured runs early and often. In the fifth inning alone, the Pirates registered five runs thanks to an offensive onslaught that started when Parker Lamm crossed the plate following an erred throw on a failed pickoff attempt. The five-run inning was more than enough for ECU to seal the win.

The Pirates picked up another win against UNCG in the opening game of the classic, but dropped the second game to Liberty.

In their only loss of the weekend, the Pirates stood toe-to-toe with Liberty. Though it ultimately lost the back and forth affair, 4-3, ECU was in the game thanks to Luke Lowery’s first-inning home run. The junior slugger connected on a hanging slider from Liberty starter Parker Bean and blasted the ball over the left-field wall to give ECU a 2-0 lead.

“I saw the slider, the guy hung one,” said Lowery. “I just took care of it. We’re finding some success (with the power) right now, but give all the credit to coach Godwin.”

Lowery was the best offensive threat in the tournament. He finished the classic with a tournament-leading three home runs and was a big reason for the offensive output, which manufactured 20 total runs and 30 hits in the three games combined.

“We swung the bats well,” said Lowery who led the tournament in hits (six), home runs (three), runs scored (four), RBIs (five) and total bases (15). “We’re just putting the barrel on the ball right now and finding consistency and success.”

Following the early long ball, the two teams traded blows and in the top of the ninth inning with the score deadlocked at three, Liberty’s Aaron Stroosma knocked a pitch past the ECU infielders, who were shifted in to prevent the run, and scored Tray Roberts from third base. The Pirates were unable to answer and suffered their first and only loss of the tournament.

“I thought we played solid,” said Godwin. “The first game against Liberty was a heartbreaker, it was tough loss but the guys responded.”

Pitcher Reid Love was charged with the loss in his first pitching appearance of the season. He came into the game in the eighth inning and allowed just two hits.

In the opening game of the tournament, a contest that featured ECU and UNC Greensboro, the Pirates cruised to an easy 8-3 win. Lowery notched two of his three home runs in the contest against the Spartans and pitcher Evan Kruczynski earned his first win of the season.

ECU fired on all cylinders in the tournament and led all teams in batting average and ERA on their way to posting the best record.

“It means a lot,” said Godwin. “I hope you guys came out of it and said that we played hard and competed. Even though we got punched in the mouth we came out and competed, that’s what means the most.”