TAKING ADVANTAGE: ECU hopes to exploit weak Memphis pitchers
Published 5:45 pm Thursday, April 14, 2016
GREENVILLE — The rested East Carolina baseball team will head to Memphis this weekend for a three-game set after its midweek contest against UNC Wilmington was cancelled due to weather.
ECU’s offense will look to bounce back after a difficult weekend against Tulane. The Pirates scored just two runs in the first two games, including their second shutout of the season. The offense found its footing Sunday with a seven-run performance, thanks in part to control difficulties from Tulane’s starter, Alex Massey.
Memphis (12-21, 3-3 American Athletic Conference) does not boast a strong starting staff. The Tigers will likely turn to Connor Alexander Friday. Alexander currently holds a 3.57 ERA, the lowest of the three weekend starters. Alexander pitches to contact, with 32 strikeouts and just nine walks. Colton Hathcock and Matt Ferguson make up the back end of the weekend rotation.
Hathcock has a workmanlike 3.72 ERA over 46 innings this year, despite allowing just five extra base hits on the season. The sophomore has a team-high four wins on the season in eight starts. Ferguson has struggled mightily on the season with a 4.07 ERA. The long ball has hurt him as he has allowed five this year. As a team, ECU has hit 16 home runs on the season, but the opportunity will be available with Ferguson on the mound. The senior’s control has been an issue as he has issued 16 free passes with just 29 strikeouts in 42 innings pitched.
The Tigers will turn to infielder Jacob Elliott at the plate to kick start the offense. The sophomore is one of just two batters over the .300 mark with a .329 average and three home runs. Nephew of the former MLB infielder Mark Grudzielanek, Brandon Grudzielanek, leads the team in RBI with 25. Grudzielanek and Elliott are two of the Tigers’ four batters with three homers on the season.
The Tigers have split their six conference games played. They earned one win in a series loss against Central Florida and managed a series victory against South Florida, 2-1. The pitching staff has been an issue of late, and throughout the season, as the Tigers have allowed seven or more runs in each of the last three games, against USF, Austin Peay and No. 2 Mississippi State.
The Pirates will look to take advantage of the weak pitching staff as there are five Pirates hitting over .300. Eric Tyler remains red hot and is hitting .311 on the season. In 32 games, Tyler leads the team with 26 RBI. Freshman Dwanya Williams-Sutton has been swinging a hot bat of late and holds a .388 average and is slugging over .600. His production has been critical for the Pirates and this weekend will be no different.
Williams-Sutton has had his slip ups in his freshman season with slumps and fielding errors, but his recent play has him holding on to a starting spot and pushing him into critical at bats.
The weekend set will close out a long road trip for ECU after traveling to Houston last weekend. After Memphis, the Pirates have a midweek contest against NC State before taking on UConn in a conference weekend series.