ECU baseball preview: East Carolina vs. North Carolina A&T
CUSA Fans Director of Content and East Carolina sports correspondent Thomas "Bubba" Rosenbaum provides us with a preview of the upcoming baseball game between ECU and North Carolina A&T.
Date: Tuesday, March 6
Time: 3:00 p.m. (EST)
Location: Clark-LeClair Stadium, Lewis Field (3,000)
All-Time Series Record: East Carolina leads 8-0
After taking two of three in the Keith LeClair Classic over the weekend, East Carolina will return to action on Tuesday afternoon when it welcomes the North Carolina A&T Aggies to Clark-LeClair Stadium.
The Pirates (7-6) were involved in three one-run games and they pulled out victories in two of those contests.
On Friday night, ECU notched a 5-4 win over No. 12 Pepperdine. The Pirates fell behind 4-1 after the top of the second, but were able to come back and score five runs (four earned) against one of the nation’s top right-handed pitchers in Barry Enright. The Waves’ hurler had allowed only 3 runs (2 earned) in 30.2 innings of work in his four previous four starts.
Game two matched Billy Godwin’s club against in-state foe, No. 23 N.C. State. The Wolfpack started one of the nation’s top right-handers in 6’10” Andrew Brackman. Brackman, whose velocity can reach the mid-to-upper 90’s, was touched up for two third inning home runs. First, Harrison Eldridge ripped a fastball off the video board in right centerfield gap. Next, Brandon Henderson lined a shot that cleared the NCSU outfielder Matt Payne’s glove by only a foot or two. ECU would build its lead to 4-1, but the Wolfpack came back to collect a 5-4 extra inning win.
In the final game of the weekend, the Pirates squared off against Western Carolina and star southpaw Drew Saberhagen. The Pepperdine transfer, whose fastball clocks in at only 82 miles per hour and breaking ball ranges from 59 to 61, scattered seven hits through the first five frames before being touched up for two runs (both earned) on ECU catcher David Forbes’ second home run of the season. The Pirates received another excellent start by sophomore righty Josh Dowdy, who was making his second start of the season. The Raleigh-native went eight innings, allowing two runs (both earned) on three hits. He struck out five and walked none. With the game tied at 2 in the bottom of the ninth, Brandon Henderson lined an opposite field double into the right field corner that allowed Dale Mollenhauer to score from first base.
As a team, East Carolina is batting only .275. However, it swung the bats well over the weekend against some quality pitching. The Pirates have 11 home runs on the year, including four by first baseman/designated hitter/outfielder Brandon Henderson (.340/4HR/11RBI).
Offensively, ECU is led by centerfielder Harrison Eldridge. He has excelled in the leadoff role, as he is batting .362 with a couple home runs, five doubles and seven RBI. The smallest Pirate is also very strong defensively, as he can run down a lot of would-be hits in the outfield.
First Baseman/Third Baseman Steven Batts is second on the club with his .351 average. The Wilmington-native gives the Pirates a consistent bat and leads the team with three triples.
Shortstop Dale Mollenhauer, who is flashy with the glove, can also swing it. The Pirates’ junior is hitting at a .333 clip with a home run and nine RBI.
Defensively, ECU has a .967 fielding percentage.
East Carolina ’s pitching staff has been solid, as it boasts an impressive 3.60 team ERA. Head Coach Billy Godwin has indicated that he will start sophomore right-hander Bailey Daniels (0-1, 7.71 ERA) versus the Aggies. The first year Pirate, who will be making his fourth appearance of the season, made his lone start in the series finale’ against UCLA. He was thrust into the starting role due to senior Jeff Ostrander being unable to go. The Bruins chased the Louisburg College transfer after only an inning, scoring three runs—all of which were earned—on six hits. In his other 3.2 innings of work, he has surrendered only one run on four hits.
The bullpen was used minimally over the weekend. Thus, it is fresh if Godwin and the Pirates should need to utilize it. He indicated on Monday that he would not hesitate to use some of his better relievers, as ECU can ill-afford to lose this game with No. 6 Cal State-Fullerton coming to town for three this weekend.
A glance at A&T…..
NC A&T (2-7) opened the season with a 5-3 loss in Raleigh to North Carolina State. They also suffered a 7-2 defeat at Duke, whom the Pirates beat, 11-4. Their victories came against Big East foe Cincinnati (4-2) and at the ACC’s Virginia Tech (15-3). The Aggies lost the other two games of each of those series. Their other defeat came at the hands of Appalachian State. The Mountaineers racked up ten doubles in their resounding 14-5 win in Greensboro.
Offensively, Aggie batters have produced a .270 batting average and six home runs. However, they do strike out a lot, as they have “k’d” 72 times in only nine games.
Shumate’s club does have some very strong pieces. Their line-up features multiple all-league players, two of whom have been nominated to the Wallace Watch List (top player in college baseball) at various points in their Aggie careers.
Right fielder Charlie Gamble, who was named to this year’s Wallace Watch List, leads the team with a .389 batting average. The Aggies’ power hitter, who was an All-MEAC performer last season, has a home run and seven RBI.
Jeremy Jones, who missed the 2006 campaign due to an injury, elected to return to NC A&T despite being selected in the 25 th round by the Colorado Rockies. The centerfielder, who was the 2005 MEAC Player of the Year after hitting .402 with 46 RBI, was placed on the 2006 Brook Wallace Watch list. He is hitting .303 this season and has a team-high five doubles.
The team’s second-leading hitter is junior shortstop Nick Mayo. The speedy middle infielder stole 50 bases in his first two seasons in blue and gold. He has been successful on all three of his attempts this year. After struggling to a .252 average a season ago, Mayo is currently at .333 in ’07 with a single home run.
First Baseman/Designated Hitter Joe McIntyre, who was the MVP of last season’s MEAC Tournament, is off to a slow start this year. After hitting a team-high .371 in 2006, he is currently at .237. However, he does lead the team with nine RBI.
NC A&T has had its struggles getting people out, as they enter with a team ERA of 7.01. They’ve permitted their opponents 75 free passes (62 walks and 13 HBP). The Aggies have a .964 fielding percentage.
Coach Shumate has not announced whom he will start against ECU, but the Pirates could possibly see junior righty John Primus. The 2005 Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American selection, who also plays second base, notched an astounding seven complete games during his initial campaign in which he compiled a 7-3 record and 3.25 ERA. Last season, he endured somewhat of a sophomore slump—finishing 6-6 with a 4.51 ERA. This year, he is 0-1 with a 7.11 ERA in 12.1 innings.
Diamond Pirates 12 - NC A&T 4
Next up: Friday, March 9-Sunday, March 11 versus #6 Cal State Fullerton