Pirates win first AAC series of the season

Published 5:45 pm Monday, April 24, 2017

CINCINNATI, Ohio — The East Carolina baseball team earned its first American Athletic Conference victory and its first series win while taking two of three from Cincinnati this past weekend.

ECU (22-19, 2-10 AAC) finished off the series win with arguably its best offensive output of the season in a 14-4, 10-run-rule victory. With 16 team hits, including a 3-for-5, two-RBI game from Charlie Yorgen, the Pirates poured it on in the series finale.

The seniors led the charge as Travis Watkins delivered a 4-for-4 game with four RBI and his fifth home run of the season. Bryce Harman drove in a pair of runs in the middle of a big seven-run fourth inning.

Freshman starter Jake Agnos had a decent outing over 4 1/3 innings while striking out three. An encouraging sign from the start was his limiting of walks as he issued just one free pass with three strikeouts. The only three runs surrendered by ECU in the game were charged to Agnos, who did not throw long enough to get the win.

While the game run just eight innings, the bullpen still showed improvement as well. Freshman Tyler Smith, who took the win, was the first reliever called on by head coach Cliff Godwin. He pushed through just under two innings of work while allowing just three hits. Junior West Covington pitched the final two innings of the game and did not allow a Bearcat to reach base while ECU closed out a series win.

On Saturday, Evan Kruczynski followed up a strong return from injury with an inspired performance. Kruczynski allowed just one hit over eight innings and, at one point, retired 22 consecutive batters. Matt Bridges, who had been struggling to this point of the season, closed out a 6-0 win with a clean ninth inning to earn ECU’s first conference win of the year.

Offensively, Yorgen scored three of ECU’s six runs while going 3-for-5. Spencer Brickhouse plated a pair of runs while Turner Brown and Dusty Baker each had an RBI. Dwanya Williams-Sutton hit a solo home run to lead off the sixth inning. He was 4-for-12 over the series and lifted his season average to .340.

In Friday’s loss, the Pirates’ failed to get anything going against Cincinnati (20-20, 5-7 AAC) starter J.T. Perez, who worked seven innings and scattered seven hits and one walk. The top two batters in ECU’s lineup, Eric Tyler and Yorgen, accounted for half of ECU’s 10 team hits.

Both ECU runs in the 8-2 loss came in the ninth inning off reliever Tristian Hammans. T.J. Riles hit a pinch-hit solo home run to lead off the frame. Tyler, who had three hits in the loss, singled with one out and Yorgen, two hits, plated Tyler with a triple in the next at bat.

On the mound, Trey Benton took the start for Friday’s game. He cruised through the first two frames but ran into trouble in the third. Joey Thomas singled and after a failed pick off attempt, and on a sacrifice bunt, advanced to third. Treg Haberkorn plated Thomas one batter later and after loading the bases later in the inning, Benton hit Ryan Noda with a pitch to allow another run.

Benton lasted five 1/3 innings while taking his second loss of the season and surrendering four runs (three earned). He was charged with another run in the fifth as Connor McVey plated a run, and one of three runs scored in the sixth were credited to Benton. Sam Lanier was the first out of the bullpen and he allowed the inherited runner from Benton to score before allowing two of his own on three hits without recording an out.

Davis Kirkpatrick followed and allowed two seventh-inning runs (one earned) over 1 2/3 innings of work. Both Kirkpatrick and Lanier moved their season ERA to 6.75 in the loss. Ryan Ross pitched a clean eighth inning from the bullpen.

The Pirates will return to action in the midweek against in-state foe NC State Wednesday at Clark-LeClair Stadium with a 7 p.m. first pitch.