Rams Edge Pirates in Series Opener

GREENVILLE, N.C. — Stung by a ninth inning triple, ECU (15-7) fell, 4-3 in the first game of a weekend series against VCU (10-9) on Friday.

Virginia Commonwealth waited until the ninth inning to dispatch the hosting Pirates in a back-and-forth game on Friday night at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

With the score deadlocked at three, VCU’s Cody Acker ripped a fair ball past the glove of East Carolina first baseman Eric Tyler, which allowed Acker to leg out a triple before the Pirates could corral him.

Despite ECU’s attempt to hold Acker at third and preserve the tie, Pirates’ southpaw Reid Love conceded the winning run after Daane Berezo’s groundball to second base was enough for Acker to slide into home plate safety — barely beating Charlie Yorgen’s throw and Travis Watkins’ tag.

Berezon’s run prevailed VCU to a 4-3 victory to open a three-game series.

“That guy was fast, wasn’t he?” Tyler asked reporters of Acker’s triple after the loss. “I looked up and he was halfway down the line so it was just a great play, a great read for him and he beat the throw.”

ECU (15-7) had a final chance to win or extend the game in the bottom of the ninth, but VCU (10-9) reliever Daniel Concepcion retired Garrett Brooks, Watkins and Kirk Morgan in order to end any chance of a comeback.

“We didn’t play bad. We just didn’t do enough to win,” ECU coach Cliff Godwin said. “We just didn’t get enough hits. We had a bad approach the first three innings.”

Offensively, the Pirates not only struggled to get the big hit, but they were also unable to string hits together. ECU notched seven total hits in the game and left five runners on base, while finishing 2-8 with runners in scoring position.

Tyler was the only Pirate to finish the game with multiple hits while three hitters failed to register a hit altogether.

ECU was coming off of a six-game winning streak in which it averaged 11.3 runs per game. So when the Rams soft-throwing pitcher JoJo Howie stymied the Pirate offense — allowing seven hits and three runs in 5 2/3 innings — it perhaps came as a surprise to some.

“Early on (Howie) was throwing 78 miles per hour so you have to stay closer to the grip (of the bat) instead of off the end,” Godwin said. “We had a lot of soft contact off the end of the bat.”

Tyler added, “Their pitchers threw great all day. They really kept us off balance, mixed their pitches well and hit their spots and that’s the key to pitching.”

Sophomore Evan Kruczynski started on the bump for the Pirates and lasted 6 1/3 innings before handing the ball over to Boyd, who was on the hook for the loss. Kruczynski allowed three runs on eight hits and struck out four after throwing 91 pitches.

“That’s a Friday night in college baseball,” said Tyler, who had a career-high three RBI on the night. “It was exciting, it was a great baseball game. They got the big hit and we didn’t and that was the difference.”

The Pirates and Rams will resume the series tomorrow at 4 p.m. for the second game of the weekend set.

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