Pirates' right-hander Davis Kirkpatrick got off to an ominous start against High Point Tuesday night. The home-grown freshman from Greenville walked the bases loaded in the top of the first inning with one out in his first start since lasting just one inning on April 16.
"The job is to get outs. Not to worry about the adversity," said Kirkpatrick, who rather than letting things slip away, regained his composure to strike out the next two batters and he never looked back.
Kirkpatrick earned career-highs for strikeouts (10) as well as innings pitched (5.1) and didn't surrender a hit until the fifth inning in ECU's 7-4 victory at Clark-LeClair Stadium."He made great pitches, his changeup was really his go-to pitch tonight and he was dialed in," Head Coach Billy Godwin said. "(It's) good for him. He showed the composure to stay in there and get out of that first inning, and hang in there and give us a very good start."
However, it wasn't all good for Kirkpatrick (2-1). He walked four batters, hit three more and although the Panthers (28-29) scratched just three hits off of the Conley High School product, one of them was a moon-shot homer in the top of the sixth inning that trimmed the Pirates' (30-23) advantage to a run.
"He was effectively wild tonight. He kind of had them guessing to get those 10 punch-outs tonight," said ECU senior Drew Reynolds.
But for every hit Kirkpatrick permitted, the Pirates matched it and provided much more.
Reynolds matched the Panthers' home run by clearing the right-field fence in the bottom of the sixth – a three-run shot – to give ECU a 7-3 cushion. He was 2-for-4 at the plate Tuesday to extend his streak of reaching base to 21 games.The Pirates felt comfortable early on, taking the lead in the first inning as beneficiaries of a fielding error at first that allowed Charlie Yorgen to reach base. Three at-bats later Dylan Brown scored him on a sacrifice bunt to make it 1-0.
|Freshman Davis Kirkpatrick struck out a career-high 10 Tuesday.|
Zach Houchins' RBI double in the third, coupled with a pair of RBI from Hunter Allen and Yorgen in the fourth stretched ECU's lead to 4-0 heading into the fifth. Meanwhile, Kirkpatrick was cruising – collecting seven strikeouts up until this point still without allowing a hit.
The Panthers finally earned their first hit in the fifth inning on Brady Williamson's single to right field, which was paired with a sacrifice fly to end his shutout bid. Then, with his pitch count well over 100 pitches, Kirkpatrick was taken deep by Kyle Brandenburg in the sixth to cut the deficit to 4-3.
Kirkpatrick's next pitch was also lined into right-center field for a single, prompting Godwin to pull his starter in favor of fellow freshman Evan Kruczynski, who didn't record an out; hitting a batter and allowing two runners to advance into scoring position on a wild pitch.
Next out of the pen was Ryan Williams. And although he faced the heart of the Panthers' order, the senior right-hander made both Williamson and Josh Greene look foolish – striking them both out to escape the threat.
Reynolds' bat put the game away in the bottom of the frame when he belted a hanging fastball from Peter Ripke for his second home run of the season.
"Drew got into a good count, got a good pitch to hit and, certainly, I thought that was a big key of the game. The other big key, I thought, was Ryan Williams coming in with second and third and punching two guys out."
Reynolds came on to pitch the ninth inning, but not without allowing his first home run of the season to Spencer Angelis to close Tuesday's scoring.
ECU will host Texas-San Antonio for a three-game series to end the regular season. The series begins Thursday night at 6 p.m. as the Pirates look for their first series win since sweeping Florida Atlantic nearly three weeks ago.