Pirate baseball drops series opener to Houston

Published 1:57 pm Saturday, April 28, 2018

In a game between two of the top teams in the American Athletic Conference, the East Carolina Pirates missed a chance to jump into first place, losing 5-4 at home to the University of Houston on Friday.

“The margin of error is very small [in the AAC],” ECU head coach Cliff Godwin said. “Houston threw probably one more pitch than we did and were just a little bit better on the mound, a little bit better offensively than we were.”

ECU (30-10, 8-5 AAC) actually took the lead over Houston (27-16, 11-5 AAC), scoring three runs in the second. But the Cougars’ three-run sixth inning, combined with a pair of runs scored in the fourth and fifth innings, was too much to overcome for the Pirates.

ECU first baseman Spencer Brickhouse highlighted the Pirates’ scoring in the second, cranking a home run over the right field wall to open the game’s scoring. ECU added two more runs, thanks to designated hitter Bryant Packard’s two-out, two-RBI single that scored left fielder Andrew Henrickson and second baseman Nick Barber.

Houston cut the deficit to one run after picking up a run in the both top of the fourth and fifth innings. In the fourth, right fielder Wendell Champion hit an RBI-double that scored left fielder Tyler Bielamowicz. Then in the fifth, Cougar second baseman Connor Hollis led off with a double, before third baseman Jared Triolo sent him home on a groundout RBI.

The Pirates increased their lead back up to two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning when catcher Jake Washer hit a sacrifice fly to the left field wall for a run. Center fielder Brady Lloyd plated the run for ECU after hitting a leadoff double and stealing third earlier in Washer’s at-bat.

The top of the sixth inning posed problems for the Pirates, especially relief pitcher Ryan Ross. Ross had his worst outing of the season as he went just 0.1 innings and gave up three hits and an earned run. He took the loss on the night.

ECU starting pitcher Jake Agnos began the sixth by walking Bielamowicz, before center fielder Grayson Padgett doubled. Ross inherited those runners as he came into pitch for Agnos and gave up a sacrifice fly to score Bielamowicz on his first batter faced. Champion hit a home run in the next at-bat, to score both himself and Padgett. Ross proceeded to give up a single and a double in consecutive at-bats before being pulled for Trey Benton. Benton escaped the inning without any more damage, getting first baseman Lael Lockhart to ground out, walking Triolo and forcing Hollis into a fielder’s choice at third.

“Trey is one of the best pitchers in the country, he’s had some hardships this year, but he’s one of the best pitchers on this staff, so I didn’t expect anything else,” Packard said.

The Pirates made it interesting in the bottom of the ninth inning when they loaded the bases with two outs. Packard, pinch hitter Chandler Jenkins and Litton reached base safely. However, first baseman Alec Burleson flew out to end the game on a 1-0 count.

“We feel so bad because we lost with this fan base,” Packard said. “This fan base is really good, but one of the best things about them is they’ll be right back here tomorrow, and that’s what we love about them,” Packard said.