MOVING UP: ECU scoots by Huskies with series win
Published 11:41 pm Sunday, April 24, 2016
GREENVILLE — The East Carolina baseball team took two-of-three in a weekend set against Connecticut to slide past the Huskies in the American Athletic Conference standings. The win slots the Pirates in at third.
It all came down to pitching in the two ECU (26-14, 7-5 AAC) wins over the weekend. Evan Kruczynski was in great form in the first leg of a doubleheader Saturday. Sunday, Jacob Wolfe anchored a 3-2 victory and earned his fifth win of the season.
Wolfe rolled through 7 2/3 innings, conceding two runs on four hits with five strikeouts. The two runs came in the second and third innings before Wolfe shut down UConn (21-18, 6-5 AAC) for four more frames.
“We didn’t hit as well this weekend but our pitching staff came through to keep the runs down,” Wolfe said. “We battled our (butts) off today and yesterday so it feels good to come out with a series win.”
With one out in the second inning Sunday, Wolfe walked his first of three batters in the game. Bryan Daniello followed with a double to move Tyler Gnesda to third and Connor Buckley’s sacrifice fly tied the game at 1-1 early.
The Huskies took the lead in the following inning. Second baseman Aaron Hill bunted down the third-base line to lead off the inning and stole second before Jack Sundberg moved him to third with a ground out. Willy Yahn put his team ahead on a ground out to short while Hill crossed the plate.
Travis Watkins finished the scoring in the fourth inning with a two-run homer off UConn starter William Montgomerie. He belted the first pitch of his at bat to left field, plating himself and Kirk Morgan to take a 3-2 lead.
“I had been getting beat in a couple times earlier in the game,” said Travis Watkins, who struck out swinging in the second inning. “I made an adjustment, I backed off the plate a little bit and got the bat to it and it ended up going out.”
From there, Wolfe pushed through to the eighth inning before he was pulled. Joe Ingle eventually ended the game with a four-out save, his eighth of the season, while allowing just one hit.
Kruczynski turned in another quality start early Saturday afternoon, though he was stuck with the no decision after Bobby Melley plated the game’s tying run with one out in the eighth. The run was unearned due to a Turner Brown error. The active Division I hits leader stroked his first hit of the game to score Sundberg from third. Joe Ingle came in and got two quick outs to send it to the bottom of the ninth in a tie game.
Ingle earned the win as he threw a clean ninth and 10th innings. After UConn’s Anthony Kay was relieved in the ninth inning, Randy Polonia struggled to find control in the 10th frame. After hitting Kirk Morgan to start the inning, Polonia got two quick outs, including a strikeout of Charlie Yorgen. UConn then intentionally walked Garrett Brooks, threw four straight balls to Jeff Nelson. Eric Tyler watched ball four hit the dirt and ended the game in walk off fashion, 2-1.
The Pirates scored the first run of the game on a Brown double to left-center while Dwanya Williams-Sutton flew home from first base on the play.
The second leg of the doubleheader fell the Huskies way as Tim Cate threw seven innings, scattering five hits and one run. He struck out a season-high 11 batters while the UConn offense went to work in the seventh inning.
“Hats off to (Cate and Kay) completely,” said Eric Tyler after the second game of the doubleheader. “They pitched fantastic, both of them did. Both of them spotted up their fastballs and worked off of that, it was tough to get anything going off of them, so hats off.”
Trailing 1-0 in the inning, ECU starter Jimmy Boyd got two quick outs and had a runner standing on second. Gnesda put runners on the corners with a single. John Toppa knocked the tying run in with a double. Gnesda and Toppa each scored on separate wild pitches from Boyd later in the inning.
Patrick Ruotolo earned the save in a clean two-inning relief performance as no Pirate reached base.