Love Dazzles in Series-Opening Win

GREENVILLE, N.C. — In his third start of the year, Reid Love threw his third career complete-game shutout to help ECU (19-12, 2-2 AAC) to a 3-0 win against Tulane (19-11, 2-2 AAC)

For just the third time this season, first-year East Carolina baseball coach Cliff Godwin sent Reid Love to the mound to start a game.

Love, who was projected to be the Pirates’ opening day starter, battled a hand injury that forced him to miss the first two weeks of the season and, since then, has appeared mostly in relief appearances.

But when Love was presented an opportunity on Thursday night, he did not disappoint — tossing his third career complete-game shutout and fourth complete game altogether. ECU went on to beat Tulane 3-0 on a picture-perfect spring evening at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

In a swift, series opener that lasted just one hour, 55 minutes, Love worked efficiently through the Green Wave (19-11, 1-3 AAC) lineup, never once wavering or revealing any sign of fatigue throughout his flawless start.

The senior southpaw faced just two batters above the minimum and didn’t allow a single base runner to advance into scoring position all night. His final line consisted of four hits allowed and six strikeouts, without issuing a walk or hitting a batter, during his 97-pitch outing.

“I’m going to be honest with you,” first-year ECU (19-12, 2-2 AAC) coach Cliff Godwin told reporters after the game, “I wasn’t expecting him to start and finish it.”

But that’s exactly what Love did. Despite his longest outing this year being just five innings going into Thursday, Love seemed to gain more strength and confidence as the game went on; striking out three of the last four Green Wave batters he faced.

“I was mostly locating better,” Love said. “I wasn’t trying to do too much. I was just trying to relax and locate.”

Shortstop Kirk Morgan’s two-run single in the fifth inning was all of the offense ECU needed. The hit came with two outs and Morgan, who joined Charlie Yorgen as the only two Pirates to notch multiple hits, swung at the first offering he saw from Tulane right-hander Corey Merrill, who pitched the entire game as well.

For good measure, Love scored a run in the seventh inning on Yorgen’s RBI single to complete the game’s scoring.

“We always talk about two-out RBI win games and win championships,” Morgan said of his go-ahead hit. “I saw a first-pitch strike, just hacked at it and it found a hole.”

But in both a literal and metaphorical sense, the game started and ended with Love. However, there was some question whether it would be Love starting on Thursday going into the series.

With last Friday’s American Conference opener being rained out, typical Friday starter Evan Kruczynski pitched on Saturday and threw a complete game. Godwin said the deciding factor for him going with Love on Thursday was that he didn’t want to shorten Kruczynski’s normal rest period by two days.

“I didn’t want to push (Kruczynski) this early in the season,” said Godwin. “Reid Love has been begging to start and I made the comment after Sunday that our best player has got to step up. And he went out there and stepped up.”

Game 2 between the Pirates and Green Wave is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Friday night. ECU will send Kruczynski to the hill to face Emerson Gibbs; both of which own earned runs averages that are fewer than two.

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