The Catamounts once again traveled to a national powerhouse this weekend. The East Carolina Pirates (3-0), the 23-ranked team in the nation, swept a three-game series from Western Carolina this weekend at Harrington Field in Greenville, NC.
Sunday, the Pirates exploded on offense to top the Catamounts 12-1. They tallied 18 hits, including four for extra bases, as six different ECU batters recorded multiple-hit games.
East Carolina jumped on the Cats early, scoring three runs in the first as three of their first four batters crossed the plate. A leadoff single by Warren Gasper was followed with double from Chad Tracy and Joseph Hastings. With the help of a throwing error by WCU third baseman Dan Woodley and a wild pitcher by starting pitcher Ryan Basner (0-1), all three ECU base runners would score.
Refusing to let up, the Pirates added four more runs in the next three innings to take a 7-1 advantage they would never relinquish. Finally, they notched a five-run sixth inning, their biggest of the day, highlighted by Bryant Ward’s third home run of the day, a two-run blast.
The Catamounts’ sole run of the day came in the top of the third inning. Woodley began the inning with a base hit to left. Ryan Schade then blasted a sacrifice fly deep into the outfield to bring him home, after an error and a sacrifice bunt moved him over to third.
East Carolina hurler Sam Narron shut the WCU offense down, giving up no earned runs and just three hits in seven innings of starting work. Hastings led the offensive barrage for the Pirates, going three-for-three from the plate with four runs, a double, and RBI. Meanwhile, Ward and John Williamson each notched two hits and two RBIs.
On the other side of the field, Todd Buchanan went two-for-four, accounting for half of the Catamounts’ four hits, while recording nine putouts from his first baseman position.
Western could not figure out the ECU pitchers again on Saturday, as they recorded only two hits against the Pirates in a 6-0 defeat at Harrington Field.
WCU put their first two men on base to lead off the game in the top of the first. Lead off hitter Todd Roper reached base after being hit by a pitch, and Rod Goldston followed that up with a base hit.
ECU starting pitcher Jason Tourangeau (1-0) would settle down, however, and strikeout the side. Tourangeau would not allow another run in his six innings of work and managed to strike out nine Western batters, a new career best.
Williamson put the Pirates on the board in the bottom of the second with a solo shot over the right-field fence. East Carolina would tack on runs in the fifth, sixth, and seventh while posting two in the eighth to earn the six-run victory.
Gaspar would lead the way for the ECU sluggers with a four-for-five day at the plate, including a stolen base and RBI. Neal Sears pitched three innings of one-hit ball with four strikeouts in relief of Tourangeau to preserve the shutout.
Catamount starting pitcher Jared Burton (0-1) would keep Western close throughout the first half of the game. Burton gave up only two earned runs in five and one-third innings of work before leaving in the bottom of the sixth.
Western Carolina head coach Todd Raleigh was very impressed with the pitching of the Pirates, as well as the strength of their entire team.
“They threw some really good pitchers at us,” he said. “They did a very good job of locating and getting ahead of us. It seemed like our hitters always had two strikes on us.”
Western Carolina had their most success in the series-opener Friday afternoon at Harrington Field. The Cats fell by only four runs in a 9-5 contest despite out-hitting the Pirates 11 to ten. East Carolina tied a school record with seven home runs to defeat Western.
WCU drew first blood in the top of the second inning when Todd Buchanan reached base with a single and was driven in by a Doug Myers double to the left-center gap. The Cats then extended their lead to two in the third frame as Donovan Minero belted a solo home run into the left field bleachers.
The Pirates would answer in the bottom of the third, however, as Clayton McCullough would begin the ECU home run parade with a solo shot to cut the Western lead in half.
East Carolina would take control of the game for good in the fourth inning as they notched five runs to take a 6-2 lead. The first two pitches of the inning were made into souvenirs as Chad Tracey and Hastings blasted back-to-back home runs.
Three batters later, Cliff Godwin would continue the Pirate trend with a two-run shot of his own. Ward wrapped up the inning with the first of his two home runs on the day and the fourth in one inning for ECU.
Continuing to put up a fight, Western would put up two more runs in the top of the fifth to bring them back to within two. Roper would draw a walk to begin the inning and was brought home on Minero’s second long ball of the day.
The Pirates would add two runs, each in the sixth and the eighth innings however, to end the Catamount surge. A single run in the ninth was not enough as Western Carolina fell by four.
Minero would finish with three hits, including the two home runs, three RBIs and two runs. Buchanan had another solid performance going three-for-four from the plate, as he leads the Cats in hitting with a .333 average. Alan Beck, the squad’s top returning hitter, added two hits and a RBI.
Ward led the way for ECU with three hits and three RBIs. McCullough was the only other Pirate with more than one hit as seven different East Carolina batters recorded a hit.
Foye Minton (1-0) picked up the win for the Pirates, spreading out four runs over five innings. Will Brinson recorded his first save of the season allowing just one Catamount run over the final four innings to preserve the victory. Robbie Hoover (0-2) took the loss for Western as he gave up six runs and three walks in three and one-third innings of work, including that five-run fourth.
Raleigh believes that beginning with such a tough schedule, two nationally ranked teams on the road, will help his team find where they need to be early on in the season. “It gives you a good stepping stone and brings out your weaknesses,” he said. “It’s definitely what we wanted to do.”
The Catamounts will play their home opener this Saturday in a doubleheader beginning at noon against Wright State. The three-game series will conclude Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m.
Raleigh feels his squad can be more successful this weekend in their home debut. He knows that if his team can regain and sharpen their fundamental abilities they will be able to pick up some wins this weekend.
“Well, we just have to get back on track,” he said. “We have to get back to the basics. We have to pitch well and start hitting better.