Pirates-Herd Split Doubleheader In C-USA Opening Weekend

UABSPORTS.COM Senior Zach Houchins
Senior Zach Houchins

March 8, 2014

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GREENVILLE, N.C. - Travis Watkins' game-winning sac fly in the fourth inning helped East Carolina to a 1-0 win over Marshall in game two of the Conference USA doubleheader, which evened the weekend series at one-all Saturday afternoon at Lewis Field inside Clark-LeClair Stadium. The Herd (4-9, 1-1) staved off a late Pirate (8-6, 1-1) rally in game one crawling away with a 9-8 victory.

The Pirates (8-6) pounded out 10 hits in the second half of the twin-bill, but it was Watkins' fly ball to right field that proved to be the game-winner. Ian Townsend led off the fourth with double to right field and moved over to third on Ben Fultz' base hit through the right side before sprinting home on Watkins' at-bat.

Reid Love (1-1) picked up the win tossing 5.1 scoreless frames with five punch-outs before turning the game over to Ryan Williams, who added 3.2 scoreless innings notching his first career save for ECU.

Michael Taylor (1-2) suffered the loss allowing the lone run (earned) on 10 hits with a pair of strikeouts in 6.2 innings. Sam Hunter and Chase Boster combined toss the final 1.1 innings of game two.

Marshall threatened in the second, third and sixth innings stranding runners in scoring position, but Love was able to get a key strikeout in the second and a ground ball in the third stanza with runners on the corners to get out of the two jams. Williams entered the contest with in the sixth with a runner on second, inducing a fly out to center and another ground ball to Zach Houchins at third stopping the threat.

In game one of the afternoon, Marshall took advantage of 15 free passes (11 walks, four hit batters) from the ECU pitching staff claiming an opening series win, 9-8.

Josh King (2-0) got the win allowing five runs (all earned) on six hits with three walks and three strikeouts in six innings. Alex Thackston earned his first save of the year with a scoreless ninth. The Herd used five pitchers between King and Thackston surrendering three runs all coming off right-hander Cliff Wilson in the bottom of the ninth.

Hoffman (0-2) dropped his second decision as a starter lasting just 3.1 innings where he gave up three runs (all earned) on two hits with six strikeouts, but walked a career-high seven batters. Nick Durazo surrendered three runs in 1.2 innings, Hayden White was touched for a pair in one-third of a frame and Jacob Wolfe went 3.2 frames allowing a run.

ECU fell behind early for the 13th-straight game when Marshall scored three runs in the first thanks to a Johnathan Beary RBI ground out and a two-RBI single to right by Matt Reed.

The Pirates responded in the bottom half of the frame on Townsend's RBI base hit back up the middle that plated Drew Reynolds, who single with one out and moved over to second on a wild pitch.

Marshall would score three runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth to take an 8-3 advantage. But ECU would make a game of it in the final three frames scoring twice in the fifth and three in the bottom of the ninth.

Trailing 9-5 heading to the ninth, Garrett Brooks reached on an infield single, took second on Kirk Morgan's walk and both runners moved up 90 feet on a wild pitch. Reynolds doubled to right field pushing across Brooks and with runners on second and third, Houchins delivered another RBI single to right plating Morgan.

After a Marshall pitching change, Townsend popped out to third in foul territory for the first out, which was followed by a Lowery infield single to short scoring Reynolds and drawing the Pirates within one, 9-8. Love entered the game as a pinch hitter reaching on a fielder's choice where Lowery was out at second before Watkins laced a line drive to right field for the final out leaving the tying run in Houchins on third.

ECU, who left a combined 19 runners on base, finally looked comfortable in the batters box posting double-digit hits in both contests. Houchins led the Pirates offensive attack going 5-for-8 with a pair of doubles and two RBI, while Reynolds was 3-for-7 with three RBI and two runs scored. Luke Lowery added a pair of hits in game one, while Fultz and Watkins had two in the second contest.

The Pirates will look to win the series Sunday afternoon when they meet the Herd in game three starting at 1 p.m. (EST).