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Mercer’s bats dismantle Pirate pitchers

GREENVILLE — It was a long weekend for the now-No. 25 East Carolina baseball team, as it suffered a home sweep for the first time since the 2015 season-opening series against Virginia.

Mercer (17-4) came into the weekend with one of the strongest offenses in the country and it flexed its muscles all weekend, outscoring ECU 25-14 during the sweep. As a team, the Bears hit four home runs on the weekend to dismantle the Pirates’ pitching staff.

In Sunday’s loss, the Bears used a five-run first inning off senior Jacob Wolfe to dampen ECU’s start to the series finale. Things weren’t much better for the Pirates offensively as Mercer’s Chase Burks cruised through seven innings and struck out seven without allowing a run in the Bears’ 8-2 win. ECU only broke through offensively in the bottom of the ninth with the game already out of reach.

Josh Knies allowed two runs on four hits in his two innings of relief, as Charlie Yorgen and Turner Brown plated the runs in the last frame. Yorgen said the Pirates got away from their brand of baseball and they will look to get back on track in midweek games against Elon and North Carolina.

“We just didn’t play good baseball and (Mercer is) a good team,” the senior second baseman said. “We didn’t execute at the plate, on the mound, in the field, base running — we didn’t do anything to win. It’s an embarrassing loss.”

Wolfe lasted just one inning and was charged with all five earned runs in the frame. Things started with a sacrifice bunt that plated Ryan Hagan. Danny Edgeworth, whose season batting average is now at .400, tripled to score a pair. First baseman Hunter Bening was responsible for the final two runs of the inning as he pulled a pitch over the left field wall for a two-run homer.

ECU had little trouble making contact in the game, but most batted balls were lofted into the air and didn’t have enough distance for the windy day that it was. Godwin said the performance was simply not good enough to beat a team of Mercer’s caliber this weekend.

“You can’t give up five runs in the first inning and expect to win,” Godwin said. “Offensively, we didn’t do anything. We know the win is blowing and you can’t just hit the ball up in the air and hope they go. We talked about that. Overall, we didn’t execute and the better team won.”

Sophomore Chris Holba had an encouraging outing from the bullpen. He threw four innings, allowed an unearned run and struck out nine while walking just one. Sam Lanier, Tyler Smith, Ryan Ross, Matt Bridges and West Covington finished the game after Holba was pulled in the sixth.

A 7-7 tie was broken in the ninth inning of the first game of the series. Bridges surrendered a two-out walk and JT Thomas followed with a two-run homer to give Mercer the lead. Edgeworth added an insurance run later in the inning with a RBI single to give Mercer its final score lead of 10-7.

In game two of the doubleheader, Trey Benton and Joe Ingle were each charged with three earned runs on the way to a 7-5 loss for ECU. Spencer Brickhouse homered in the loss.

ECU will play Elon on the road Tuesday before a big matchup with North Carolina at home Wednesday.