The Diamond Bucs come into the weekend series with three straight losses and only a single win in their last five outings. They'll be hoping to right the ship with an impressive showing in a conference series.
Jeff Hoffman (0-2) will likely continue to start out the weekend rotation in Friday's game. As the search for his first win continues, Hoffman will face off against a group of four Green Wave batters all hitting above .300. Richard Carthon (.373), Andrew Garner (.327), Garrett Deschamp (.308) and Hunter Hope (.306) all pose a big offensive threat. Deschamp and Hope alone combine for 34 RBI on Tulane's 81-run season thus far.
That's an area that ECU has consistently struggled in this season. Even though they can score some runs in bunches, the Diamond Bucs haven't been stringing together hits in a way that would provide consistent scoring.
In Wednesday's game against Wake Forest, ECU only had four hits to Wake's 12. The Pirates recorded three of their four runs in the first inning via a three-run homer by Bryce Harman. Ben Fultz and Zach Houchins made it on base in that frame by getting walked and hit by a pitch, respectively.
"Runs are scored by putting one good at bat together after another," said head coach Billy Godwin after the loss to Wake Forest. "It's an individual game. If you want to score runs in this game, you've got to hit the ball out, hit the ball in a gap, or you've got to bunch hits together. We have not been able to bunch hits together, and it makes it tough to score runs."
Tuesday against UNC-Greensboro wasn't much different. ECU managed to notch seven hits, but only mustered a streak of good at bats in the fourth inning. It worked, too. A streak of four hits without getting an out yielded three runs and a 3-1 lead. If the Pirates can manage to have that kind of showing at the plate on a more consistent basis, they'll score more and stop finding themselves dropping one-goal games.
The Pirates aren't going to have an easy time at the plate. Tyler Mapes (2-0), who is expected to start on Friday, has already been credited with two wins and has an earned run average of 2.45. He has 11 strikeouts and has only surrendered seven runs (four earned) on 13 hits in 14.2 innings pitched.
Not playing in close-game situations would take a lot of pressure off the pitching staff in this series. Ryan Williams, who has been a stellar addition to the bullpen, recorded his first loss on Wednesday. He surrendered seven hits and three runs (two earned), which was just enough for Wake Forest's comeback.
Since he pitched on Wednesday, Williams isn't likely to get the call for relief until Saturday or Sunday. Besides Hoffman, the remainder of ECU's starting pitchers should keep the Green Wave's offense in check. Reid Love (1.17 ERA) and Brett Mabry (1.12) round out the rest of the Diamond Bucs' expected rotation.
On Tulane's side, Randy LeBlanc (2.82 ERA) and J.P. France (4.58 ERA) are expected to start on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
ECU hosts the series in Clark-LeClair Stadium. Friday's first pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday's games will be earlier in the day with 2 p.m. and 1 p.m. starts.