Five miscues by the Pirates led to six unearned runs in the Rams' 8-4 victory on a wet, foggy night at Clark-LeClair Stadium. ECU (10-11) pitchers allowed just five hits to VCU (17-3), who sweeps the season series after it won 3-0 in Richmond, Va. on Feb. 25.
"If you can't do fundamental things and catch ground balls, you're not going to win," said ECU coach Billy Godwin. "We've shown glimpses of being a good defensive club … but to be down in that situation and make fundamental mistakes his unacceptable."
Despite the Pirates' defensive woes, they had the tying run at the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and freshman Bryce Harman at the plate. However, after getting ahead 3-0 in the count, Harman was caught looking at strikes two and three with the bases loaded to seal the deal.
"It was a good pitch (to end the game), but I shouldn't have struck out looking there. I got to foul that pitch off and keep on battling," said Harman, who dropped a critical pop-fly in left field earlier in the game.
Although they struggled in the middle innings, the Pirates' bats were clicking early Wednesday. Senior Drew Reynolds opened scoring with his solo blast to right field in the bottom of the first – his first home run since June 2012 (285 at-bats).
ECU strung together two more hits in the second, which included Ben Fultz' RBI single to plate Charlie Yorgen, but then, the Pirates were silenced at the plate. They went 12 straight batters, stretched across five innings, without a hit, until pinch-hitter Dylan Brown laced a RBI double down the right field line in the bottom of the sixth.
Trailing 2-0, VCU got two baserunners on in the top of the third inning to set up Bill Cullen's go-ahead three-run blast to right field. The Rams added two more runs in the fourth off a pair of ECU errors, including Harman's drop in left field, and never looked back.
"We can't make mistakes and I think we're getting better, but I think tonight we mentally froze," said Harman.
Tyler Bolton (0-2) was handed the loss after he surrendered six runs, but just two of them were earned. The Pirates' fifth and final error – a mishandled ground ball by shortstop Hunter Allen – plagued them again in the top of the ninth; eventually leading to Cody Acker's two-run double to stretch the Rams' lead to 8-4.
"The game is a totally different game if you're two down," said Godwin. "Every run is critically important and we weren't able to take care of the ball at all."
ECU will hit the road this weekend to face the Charlotte 49ers for a three-game series. First pitch for the series opener is set for Friday at 6 p.m.