ECU Takes Game One Against Albany

GREENVILLE, N.C. — On the wings of a strong start by Evan Kruczynski and the power of Luke Lowery, ECU (3-4) won it series opener with Albany (1-3) 5-1 Friday at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

In the first game of an impromptu series against Albany, the East Carolina baseball team shut down the Great Danes on its way to a 5-1 victory.

Originally slated to take part in the Baseball-Irish Classic, a tournament held in Cary N.C. that was cancelled due to the recent inclement weather, the Pirates (3-4) scrambled to find a weekend opponent and welcomed Albany (1-3) to Clark-LeClair Stadium for a three-game weekend series.

There was no welcoming party held for the Great Danes as ECU’s Evan Kruczynski took to the mound and pitched seven scoreless innings. Kruczynski, the sophomore lefty, wasted no time settling in as he started the game by retiring all three batters in the first inning.

“As a pitcher you just want to go out there and put up zeros,” said Kruczynski. “I just want to go out there and throw strikes, and let my defense do the work.”

From there, things didn’t get much better for Albany against Kruczynski. The southpaw struck out six batters and allowed just four hits. Kruczynski found himself in occasional trouble but never failed to work his way through it. By the time he was relieved by Jimmy Boyd, the Pirates held a 3-0 lead.

“You could tell he didn’t have his best stuff,” said ECU coach Cliff Godwin. “But he just battled through it. He had runners in scoring position in a lot of the innings but he just got out of it so I tip my hat to that guy.”

Boyd didn’t fare as well as Kruczynski and only recorded one out before giving way to Reid Love after surrendering a pair of hits. Love came in to finish off the inning and with runners on the corners and only one out, he struck out Albany’s Evan Harasta and forced Trevor DeMerritt into a ground out; preserving ECU’s 3-1 lead.

“It was awesome,” Godwin said of Love’s eighth inning. “That’s the guy that we want toeing the rubber in those crucial situations.”

Love stayed in the game and finished off a scoreless ninth inning on his way to earning his first save of the season.

“Reid Love, I would say, is the best pitcher on this staff,” said Kruczynski. “Everyone looks up to him, he’s a captain, he’s a senior. So, having him come out of the back of the pen, I wouldn’t say it’s a lock, but it’s pretty darn close.”

ECU’s offense was once again bolstered by the power of Luke Lowery. The streaking slugger notched his fourth home run in as many games in the fourth inning.

The home run, a two run shot, came only two pitches after a judgment-call foul ball to right field that, if fair, would have been a home run. Though Godwin persisted with the umpires — to no avail — that the ball was indeed fair, Lowery stepped into a hanging curveball from Albany starter Brendan Ryan and deposited the pitch over the left-centerfield wall to give the Pirates an early 2-1 lead.

“I thought it was fair so I tucked my head and started running,” Lowery said of the foul ball. “I didn’t realize it was foul until I got to third base. But I went back in there and put a good swing on it and came out on top right there.”

Lowery’s only hit of the game proved to be enough for ECU as it scored first baseman Eric Tyler, but five other Pirate batters notched hits of their own, including Tyler, who finished the day with two runs.

“Everyone’s approach is a lot better,” Lowery said. “Everyone’s swinging the bats this year and, one through nine, I think we’re really solid. We’re seeing the ball better and putting runs up on the board.”

Outfielder Parker Lamm, a newcomer to ECU, notched the first hit of the game, a lead off single up the middle and extended his hit streak to seven games. Jeff Nelson’s two hits made him the only ECU player with multiple hits on the day.

Clinging to a 3-1 lead heading into the ninth inning, the Pirate offense provided some insurance runs to keep Albany out of striking distance. Tyler came around to score his second run of the game following Nelson’s single to left. Two batters later, catcher Travis Watkins hit a sacrifice fly to center that scored Garrett Brooks. By the time Love came back out for the save, he had a cushiony 5-1 lead.

“I faced our lineup all spring,” said Kruczynski. “So I know how good they can be. It’s the best offense, I think, in the country so when you’re out there on the mound all you have to do is throw strikes and let the defense play behind you.”

The second game of the series is slated for a 2 p.m. first-pitch on Saturday.

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