Despite having both offense and pitching consistently ranked throughout the top 50 in the country, the East Carolina Pirates are consistently overlooked. With programs like UNC, Coastal Carolina, and Western Carolina surrounding East Carolina, the Pirates don't appear on many people's radar as far as national contenders. However, the Pirates are consistently getting the job done.
On Tuesday, East Carolina might have gotten a few heads turned their way as they dispatched another top-tier opponent in #8 North Carolina State in blowout fashion, 15-3. The Pirates jumped out to an 8-0 lead over the Wolfpack, courtesy of a five-run fourth inning. They stayed on cruise control the rest of the way, winning by a final score of 12.
Strong offense buoys Pirates to huge lead
Normally a fairly tough pitching staff, NC State let the Pirates walk all over them from the get-go. Parker Lamm led off the bottom of the first inning with a single for the Pirates. He would advance to third base with two outs and score on a wild pitch. In the second inning, the Pirates used a little bit of small ball to scratch out two more runs. Consecutive singles led off the inning, followed by a sacrifice bunt to put runners on second and third.
Turner Brown picked up the first RBI of the night, driving a single up the middle to score one run. Charlie Yorgen followed that up with another bunt, a suicide squeeze that plated another run. The 3-0 lead was a good start for the Pirates, who proceeded to blow things open in the fourth inning.
With runners on first and second and two outs, it looked like Wolfpack relief pitcher Sean Adler had escaped damage after inducing a groundball, but it was muffed by his shortstop, loading the bases. Cleanup hitter Zack Mozingo took advantage of the fielding mistake by doing exactly what he was expected to do in the cleanup slot - Mozingo hooked a home run over the right field fence for a grand slam that busted the game wide open at 7-0. Thanks to another error, this one a throwing mistake by the shortstop, Bryce Harman got a chance in the fourth inning and capitalized. Harman ripped a RBI double to expand the lead to a whopping eight runs.
East Carolina answers brief NC State rally
The Wolfpack got some momentum back in the sixth inning, plating a pair of runs to close the gap to 8-2 on a pair of home runs. Chance Shepard led the inning off with a huge blast to cut the lead to 8-1. Brett Kinneman followed with a dinger of his own two batters later. However, with a runner on second and two outs, relief hurler Matt Bridges struck out Shane Shepard on a high fastball to end the rally.
With their pitching showing signs of faltering for the first time, the Pirates wasted no time squashing the Wolfpack's momentum with a pair of huge innings.
More sloppy defense cost NC State. With runners on first and second and one out, Karl Keglovits of the Wolfpack induced a ground ball to third base. The ball went through the legs of the Wolfpack's third baseman but was gathered by the shortstop in shallow left field.
East Carolina attempted to score the runner. He would have been cut down easily but the throw home was airmailed, allowing an unearned run to score on a very messy play. Brown picked up RBI two, three, and four on his next AB by walloping a three-run shot that crushed any hope NC State had of a rally. To add insult to injury, with the game well-decided, Harman added a three-run blast of his own, giving the Pirates a 15-2 lead. NC State added one meaningless run in the ninth inning, bringing the score to it's final tally of 15-3.
Statement win for East Carolina
The Pirates, who have been flirting with the Top 25 for several weeks now, picked up a well-needed statement win. And in a big way. There was nothing cheap about this monster victory in which the Pirates exemplified their big bats, clutch pitching, and pristine defense. The Pirates outhit the Wolfpack 14-6 with three home runs, which accumulated ten of their fifteen runs.
Their pitching was clutch, especially in escaping the sixth inning but also in shutting down the Wolfpack throughout the game. Their pitching suppressed the Wolfpack while their offense gave them a huge lead. They allowed the eighth ranked team in the nation very few chances to get back into a big game. Their defense did not make an error, while the Wolfpack made four.
Harman led East Carolina's offensive attack with three hits and four RBI. Catcher Travis Watkins picked up three hits of his own. The Pirates also received multi-hit days from Eric Tyler and Yorgen. The Wolfpack managed little offensively all day but did get two its from Stephen Pitarra.
Bridges got the win on the mound for the Pirates after starter Nick Durazo had to exit after 3.1 innings. Wolfpack starter Johnny Piedmonte took the loss after being bullied for three runs in 1.1 innings. The Pirates travel to High Point for another non-conference matchup tomorrow. Meanwhile, the Wolfpack will get a few days to regroup before heading off to a weekend series with North Carolina A & T.