Fueled by a three-homerun performance, the Pirates (1-3) picked up their first victory under first-year coach Cliff Godwin, beating UNC Greensboro (1-2), 8-3, in the opening game of the 12th annual Keith LeClair Classic.
“Anytime you win it feels good,” said Godwin, who played under the late Keith LeClair at ECU from 1998-2001. “It’s extra special being in the Keith LeClair Classic when we get our first win of the season.”
First baseman Bryce Harman, who was suspended for the opening series against Virginia, pumped out an impressive three-hit performance, which included two doubles. His return to the lineup paid immediate dividends as the Pirates scored only five runs during their three game series against the Cavaliers in his absence.
“I just wanted to come out here and see the ball well,” said the sophomore Harman. “I put some good swings on it but I missed playing with my guys and I’m glad to be back.”
Despite Harman’s productive return, Pirates got off to a slow start and didn’t manufacture any runs until the bottom of the fifth inning when shortstop Hunter Allen ripped a one-out triple to center. Second baseman Charlie Yorgen scored on the play after, getting a good jump from first base. An error later in the inning by UNCG third baseman Collin Woody brought Allen home and gave the ECU a 2-1 lead to end the inning.
The heart of the ECU lineup, consisting of Luke Lowery, Harman and Travis Watkins, picked up eight of ECU’s 11 hits. Lowery, the designated hitter, hit two homeruns, including his eighth-inning shot to straightaway center.
“This year is a different team and these guys are better,” said Godwin who earned his first career victory. “It took us a little while to get going but once we did we started hitting the ball out of the ballpark.”
In the sixth inning alone, the heart of the ECU lineup notched three runs as Lowery hit his first homer of the day off of the left-field foul pole. Harman followed up the solo-shot with a double and then came around to score when Watkins registered his first career homerun. Following the three run outburst, the Pirates held a 5-1 lead and never looked back.
“That was huge,” said Godwin of the big inning. “We got those three runs and then we kept tacking on. When you respond it just knocks the win out of (the opponents) sails.”
“It’s a great feeling,” Lowery added. “Give all the credit to coach Godwin on that, with our approach. It’s nice to come out here and see some results.”
Sophomore lefty Evan Kruczynski (1-1) got the start for the noon game and pitched six strong innings, allowing five hits, one run and fanned seven Spartan batters. He gave up his only run in the fourth inning after Aaron Wright hit a ball to centerfield and scored Collin Woody to give UNCG a 1-0 lead.
“You got to tip your hat to that guy,” said Godwin. “He did a great job, the pitching has been phenomenal.” Nick Durazo and Kirk Morgan relieved Kruczynski after his six innings. They combined for three innings and allowed two unearned runs before eventually claiming the win.
In addition to Harman’s return to the team, pitcher and centerfielder Reid Love made a cameo appearance when he came into the game for Garrett Brooks in the sixth inning to play center. Though Godwin claimed that he didn’t want to let Love get any at-bats until he felt totally comfortable about Love’s injured hand, he cited a “bonehead” move by Brooks as the reason for Love’s appearance. Love walked during his only at-bat.
Pitcher Jacob Wolfe is slated to start the first game of ECU’s two-game Sunday against Liberty.