On a night when East Carolina (24-9-1, 7-2-1) committed three errors and collected just three hits through six innings, it must feel fortunate to have walked away from FedExPark with a 5-2 victory over Memphis (15-19, 5-5) Friday night in a critical Conference USA series.
Senior lefty Kevin Brandt didn't have his best stuff in the opener of the three-game set, but the Pirates were able to muster just enough offense off Memphis starter Dan Langfield and added a pair of insurance runs late to preserve the victory.
Here's more insight into Friday's contest...
Game News and Notes
- The bottom of the first stanza was very telling as to how the rest of the tilt would play out. Memphis placed its first two runners on to lead off the frame, but stranded a pair at the corners as Brandt wiggled his way out of the jam.
- ECU carried the momentum into the second as it notched two runs against the Tigers' electric right-hander Langfield. Jay Cannon hit a one-out single and advanced to second after Zach Wright was hit by a pitch. After Langfield struck out Ben Fultz, sophomore shortstop Jack Reinheimer laced an offering off the wall in left field, plating both runners and staking the Pirates to a 2-0 lead.
- It was the third consecutive game in which Reinheimer has produced a two-out, two-run extra-base hit - he also collected a 2-R double in the ninth at Elon as well as a 2-R triple Wednesday against Old Dominion. Reinheimer finished the game with a game-high three hits.
- The Tigers trimmed the deficit to one run in the bottom half of the second. Derrick Thomas reached second after an error by Corey Thompson - the first of three Pirate miscues - and eventually scored on Tucker Tubbs' run-scoring single to left.
- Memphis tied the game with another run in the third, but it could have been much worse for the Purple and Gold. Ethan Gross led off with an infield single and advanced to second when Ford Wilson's sacrifice bunt was botched by the Pirates, putting runners at first and second with nobody out. Adam McClain drew a walk and suddenly, the Tigers had the bases loaded. Brandt induced a 6-4-3 double play grounder off the bat of Eli Hynes - UM scored a run on the twin-killing - and ECU prevented further damage when Jacob Wilson grounded out to Younger to end the threat.
- Yet again, the Tigers put runners in scoring position in the fourth, but Brandt weasled his way out of another jam by retiring Gross on an inning-ending groundout. Memphis also had runners on the corners with one out in the fifth, but Jacob Wilson popped out to Reinheimer and T.J. Rich struck out to end the frame while the score remained knotted at two.
- The Pirates caught a huge break in the sixth when John Wooten raced home from third after Memphis catcher Keaton Aldridge was unable to handle a pitch from Langfield. The passed ball enabled the Pirates to claim a 3-2 advantage. It was Aldridge's first time catching Langfield and the sixth-inning miscue proved costly.
- ECU tallied one more run against Langfield, this time in the top of the seventh. Reinheimer singled to left to begin the frame and took second after Philip Clark's sacrifice bunt. Drew Reynolds drove in Reinheimer later in the stanza with a single to right, extending the East Carolina lead to 4-2.
- Langfield (5-4) was once again solid for a much-improved Memphis ballclub. He surrendered four runs (three earned) on five hits while walking one and striking out eight in a losing effort.
- The Tigers had another prime opportunity to climb even with the visitors as they put runners on the corners with just one out in the seventh. Tanner Merritt, as he has done so often thus far in 2012, preserved the lead. The Greenville, N.C., native retired Hynes on an infield pop-up and punched out Jacob Wilson to end the inning.
- Brandt improved his record to 5-2 while lowering his ERA ever-so-slightly to an impressive 1.92. The southpaw certainly earned this victory, having retired the side in order just once and escaping several jams in which Memphis had runners in scoring position. He lasted 6 1/3 stanzas while yielding a pair of runs (one earned) on six hits. Brandt - who moved into sole possession of ninth place on the program's all-time strikeouts list - struck out four and walked two.
- Merritt pitched perfect innings in both the eighth and ninth frames to secure the series-opening triumph for the Purple and Gold. It was the sixth save for the right-hander, which ranks second on the squad trailing only Reynolds' seven. Merritt and Reynolds find themselves amongst the Conference USA leaders in the category.
- The Pirates capped the scoring in the top of the ninth. Tim Younger delivered a run-scoring double over the head of Rich at first base, plating Reinheimer who had reached earlier in the inning on a one-out single.
- In other league action, Rice defeated Marshall (9-0) and Tulane led UAB 5-0 in the third before the game was suspended due to a power outage in UAB's ballpark. Perhaps the most consequential contest of the evening for the Pirates was a 1-0 victory by Southern Miss over UCF in 14 innings in Hattiesburg. With the loss, UCF (7-3 in league play) now trails East Carolina (7-2-1) by a half-game margin in the standings. Of course, having barely eclipsed the halfway point in C-USA action, plenty of time remains for teams to jockey for position.
- Other than Reinheimer, Jay Cannon was the only Pirate to record a multi-hit performance. The Brunswick C.C. transfer finished 2-for-4 and also scored one of ECU's five runs.
Saturday's Probable Pitching Starters
- The second game of the three-game set features another marquee mound matchup. Memphis will throw left-hander and reigning league and NCBWA Pitcher-of-the-Week Sam Moll while the Pirates will counter with a lefty of their own, Tyler Joyner.
- Moll (3-3, 2.25 ERA) enters the contest having allowed just one earned run in his last 30 2/3 innings of work while sporting a 0.38 ERA in league contests. He is coming off a brilliant outing against Marshall where he allowed just one hit in a complete-game shutout of the Thundering Herd.
- Joyner comes into the contest with an unblemished 5-0 record while boasting a 2.47 earned run average. The Rocky Mount, N.C., native garnered C-USA Pitcher-of-the-Week accolades on April 2, a week before Moll claimed the award.
First pitch for Saturday's contest is scheduled for 3 p.m. (EST). Check out the '10th Inning' tomorrow night as we will provide extended coverage of the conference clash.