DEMOLISHED: Pirates railroaded by Tar Heels

Published 1:36 am Wednesday, March 16, 2016

MICHAEL PRUNKA | DAILY NEWS BATTLING: Freshman shortstop Turner Brown makes a play earlier in the season. He was 1-for-5 at the plate against North Carolina in Tuesday’s game.

BATTLING: Freshman shortstop Turner Brown makes a play earlier in the season. He was 1-for-5 at the plate against North Carolina in Tuesday’s game.

GREENVILLE — The No. 17 East Carolina baseball team was railroaded by No. 6 North Carolina at home Tuesday night in a 17-4 loss to the Tar Heels. The game was contested in front of the third largest Clark-LeClair Stadium crowd of all-time.

The day started with flare and excitement. Greenville offered picture-perfect baseball weather and the crowd was buzzing with anticipation for the midweek contest. ECU starter Evan Voliva struck out Tar Heel first baseman Brian Miller to start the game, but it was all downhill from there for the sophomore.

“It was tough. I just wasn’t getting ahead of hitters, I was getting behind in counts and it came back to bite me,” Voliva (0-1) said after his first career start.

Voliva allowed a one-out home run to Tyler Lynn before hitting the following batter. Brandon Riley singled and Eli Sutherland moved to third on a hit-and-run. Cody Roberts pushed across Sutherland with a safety squeeze. Miller walked to load the bases and Voliva’s night was done early.

Davis Kirkpatrick relieved Voliva and promptly surrendered a bases-clearing double to Adam Pate. Kyle Datres walked and Tyler Ramirez followed with a three-run home run to account for the eighth run of the inning and push his team out to an 8-1 lead in the second frame.

Seven innings later, the Pirates found themselves in a 17-4 hole and a third straight loss under their belts.

“Personally, I’m embarrassed,” said second baseman Charlie Yorgen, who was 3-for-5 with two runs scored. “You come to East Carolina to win, you come to win big games. We played in front of 5,000 plus and we didn’t play our best baseball. We need to get back on track tomorrow in practice. We need to have a good weekend. We need to learn from this, but it’s definitely a little embarrassing.”

Things came in bunches for the Tar Heels, who tagged the Pirates for four runs in the sixth and eighth innings after the eighth run second.

Datres plated Miller with an RBI double off reliever Matt Bridges in the third inning to account for the only solo-run inning for UNC.

ECU trailed 9-1 after the top half of the third inning, but the Pirates found life in the middle innings while the Tar Heels were kept largely at bay. Travis Watkins scored the second ECU run of the day on the second wild pitch of the inning from UNC starter Cole Aker, who lasted 2 and 2/3 innings.

The Pirates threatened in the fifth, had two in scoring position with no outs, but a bad bounce off yet another UNC wild pitch changed the tides. Parker Lamm led off the fifth with a single and moved to third on Yorgen’s single to right field. Watkins watched a wild pitch fly by from A.J. Bogucki, a bad bounce off the brick backstop played into the Tar Heels hand and Lamm was caught at the plate by catcher Cody Roberts. Kirk Morgan and Eric Tyler delivered back-to-back RBI singles, but that was as close as the Pirates would get.

“Our hitters and position players did a great job of battling all night, all the way to the end,” Voliva said. “It would have been easy for them to pack it up and call it a game but they fought all night.”

In the next frame, the Tar Heels struck for four runs, including a two-run double from Miller, who finished 3-for-5 with three runs and two RBIs.

Brady Denny was charged with all four runs in the eighth inning and the freshman’s ERA ballooned to 11.81 on the season.

ECU head coach Cliff Godwin said the Tar Heel batters were put in beneficial situations all night at the plate and that was largely to blame for the offensive output.

“I’m not going to take any credit away from their offense, but every hitter was hitting in an advantage count,” Godwin said. “It was 1-0, 2-0, 3-1. We put 10 guys on free bases. They’re a good team and you can’t put 10 guys on and expect them not to score runs.”

The pitchers rolled out by ECU today should not be a major concern going forward as it was largely freshman and first-timers outside of Kirkpatrick. The Pirates are prepared to put the loss behind them and move on to the weekend where the Pirates will take on Monmouth.