Bucs Earn Split to Take LeClair Classic Crown

GREENVILLE, N.C. — ECU (2-4) split a pair of games at Clark-LeClair Stadium Sunday to earn its third straight Keith LeClair Classic title.

A day removed from gaining the first win of the Cliff Godwin era, the East Carolina baseball team was pitted against two NCAA Tournament hopefuls to close the 12th annual Keith LeClair Classic.

The Pirates earned a split against 24th ranked Liberty and St. Johns — dropping a thriller 4-3 to Liberty in Sunday’s matinee at Clark-LeClair Stadium before edging the Red Storm 9-2 — to earn their third consecutive LeClair Classic championship.

Godwin, who played catcher for LeClair at ECU (2-4) from 1997-2001 and wears his No. 23, was called over by the renowned “left-field megaphone guy” after the Pirates’ victory in the nightcap, and the 37 year-old leapt onto the wall to greet him and a few other purple-and-gold clad fans; a tradition he remembers taking part in during his collegiate playing days.

“We had that tradition, but there were 1,500 people or 2,000 people out there,” Godwin said, later adding that it more a lot to win games in the annual showcase that bears LeClair’s name. “They competed for nine innings each game and even though we got punched in the mouth a little bit in that Liberty game, we came back and competed.

“That’s what coach LeClair would want us to do and that’s what means the most, but obviously winning two out of three means a lot too.”

Luke Lowery muscled his third home run of the weekend in the first inning against Liberty, then notched an RBI single and scored a run against St. John’s (3-3) in a pivotal fifth inning that opened up the floodgates. Lowery finished 6-for-11 at the dish with five RBI and four runs in the Classic.

On the mound, David Lucroy shined against St. Johns. The junior righty tossed seven innings, without allowing a hit in the last three frames of his outing and just five overall on 78 pitches. Offensively, ECU scored a run in each of the first three innings on its way to nine runs off of 11 hits.

“It was unbelievable,” said Lucroy of the offensive output. “Our guys absolutely unleashed the offense and just crushed balls.”

First, it was sophomore catcher Eric Tyler’s first career home run in the first inning; then Jackson Mims’ RBI groud out to score Bryce Harman in the second; and finally Tyler’s RBI double to push Hunter Allen home to score in the third to make it 3-1 ECU.

The Pirates blew the game wide open with five runs on six hits in the top of the fifth to stretch the margin to 8-1. Freshman Cam Snow, who swung at the first pitch on his collegiate at-bat to earn his first career hit, added another run in the seventh to make it 9-1.

In game one, Pirates’ sophomore left-hander Jacob Wolfe retained the slim lead he was given in the first inning on Lowery’s two-run blast until Liberty (3-3) drew even on Becker Sankey’s RBI single in the sixth inning.

The Flames took its first lead on ECU reliever Joe Ingle’s wild pitch in the top of the seventh inning, but it was short lived. The Pirates tied the game in the bottom of the frame on a well-executed safety squeeze by Charlie Yorgen to plate Garrett Brooks.

ECUs projected ace going into the season, senior Reid Love, made his first appearance on the mound with two outs in the eighth inning and escaped a minor jam by inducing an inning-ending double play with a strikeout and a pick-off.

However, a lead-off walk in the ninth inning would come back to bite Love. A successful sacrifice bunt, followed by Love's failed pick-off attempt, set up Aaron Stroosma’s go-ahead RBI single in the top of the ninth inning.

Then, down to their final out with the tying run 90 feet away at third base, Yorgen sharply grounded out to first base to end the game, cementing Liberty’s 4-3 victory.

“It was a heartbreaker. (We) had a chance to win it and kind of let it slip away with the tying run on third base,” said Godwin. “When you have to flip around and play 45 minutes later, I challenged the hitters because I knew we had thrown our best arms in the bullpen … and they responded.”

ECU will stay at Clark-LeClair Stadium for a Wednesday afternoon non-conference game against Old Dominion. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. The Pirates and Monarchs were scheduled to meet last week in Norfolk, Va., but the game was postponed until April 15 due to inclement weather sweeping down the east coast.

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