#19 ECU Takes Nation's Longest Winning Streak to #29 Tulane
Pirates and Green Wave to square off in key CUSA series at Zephyr Field
CUSA Fans Director of Content and East Carolina sports correspondent Thomas "Bubba" Rosenbaum provides us with his latest update on the ECU Pirates baseball team.
Date: Friday, March 30-Sunday, April 1
Location: Zephyr Field; New Orleans, LA
Times: 7:30 p.m.; 3 p.m.; 1 p.m. (All Times are EST)
All-Time Series: Tulane leads 11-4
METAIRIE, LA—It has been nearly a month and a half since East Carolina played a road game. A lot has happened since the Pirates were swept at UCLA and most of it has been good. However, it was actually a disappointing 2-0 loss to Campbell that may have been the turning point for ECU.
Following the humbling defeat to the Camels, there was supposedly a closed door team meeting called by some of the upperclassmen. Only the players (and possibly the coaches) know what was discussed during that heart-to-heart session, but the Pirates have certainly been a different team ever since.
Since its 2-5 start, ECU has rattled off wins in 18 of its last 19 games. Billy Godwin and the Pirates are currently on a 14-game winning streak, which is tops in the nation and tied for the third longest in Conference USA history.
During its 20-game homestand, East Carolina impressed in most facets of the game. The Pirates ascended into the nation’s Top 20 while proving that they could win in a variety ways.
No. 19 ECU (20-6, 3-0), who struggled in close ball games a year ago, has faired much better in the tight ones this season. The Pirates collected five one-run victories during their lengthy homestand. They have proven that they can win with their pitching and defense and/or their bats. They’ve recorded wins in shootouts, blowouts and pitcher’s duels. They have demonstrated the ability to rally from large deficits.
However, there is one thing that this team is yet to prove and that is that it can win on the road.
After the Pirates came back from down 8-0 to defeat rival UNCW, 11-10, in 10 innings on Wednesday, former ECU coach Gary Overton addressed this issue by saying that it is more difficult to come back from six and eight runs down than it is to win on the road. Therefore, he is not concerned about the prospects of the Pirates continuing their solid play away from the friendly confines of Clark-LeClair Stadium.
East Carolina will need to maintain its current level of performance, as its first road test in over five weeks will be a stern one when the Pirates face-off against No. 29 Tulane this weekend in a key CUSA match-up at Zephyr Field.
The programs did meet during the regular season in 2006 with Tulane taking two of three in Greenville. However, they did meet twice in the Conference USA Tournament at Rice. The Pirates recorded a 4-2 victory in the opening round, but the Green Wave would collect a 2-1, 10-inning win two days later to advance to the semifinals.
TU has never lost a series to East Carolina, having won 11 of the 15 all-time meetings.
The Green Wave (20-7, 3-0) have also been playing very well of late, as they’ve won 16 of their last 19 games. Rick Jones’ club is coming off a 5-0 home win over Nichols State on Tuesday. Last weekend, TU recorded its second CUSA opening series sweep in 12 years when it won three games at Marshall. The Greenies only other league-opening sweep came against East Carolina in 2005.
Tulane has been strong offensively, but its strength has been its pitching. The team ERA is an impressive 2.72 and opponents are only hitting .236. They have demonstrated excellent command, striking out 240 while walking only 58. Green Wave hurlers have produced six shutouts in their last nine games.
Sean Morgan and Shooter Hunt have each won five games and possess ERA’s of less than two. Morgan has only surrendered 29 hits while striking out 69 batters in 47 innings of work. Hunt, a UVA transfer, has an ERA of 1.57. The sophomore righty has only issued nine walks in 46 innings.
Veteran David Gomes rounds out the Green Wave rotation. He enters with a 3-2 mark and 3.15 ERA.
Preston Claiborne is normally Tulane’s set-up man, as he has made a team-high 13 appearances on the season. Closer Daniel Latham has earned six of the Green Wave’s eight saves thus far.
This staff will face an East Carolina line-up that has scored 58 runs in its last five games. After their recent tear, the Pirates are hitting .295 and have hit 27 home runs. They’ve also produced 46 doubles and eight triples to yield a .460 slugging percentage.
Leadoff man Harrison Eldridge hits .347, has a team-high 11 doubles and does an excellent job of setting the table for the rest of the Pirates’ order.
Junior shortstop Dale Mollenhauer is third on the team with his .363 batting average. The Gibsonia, PA-native is tied for team lead in stolen bases, as he has swiped seven in eight attempts.
East Carolina first baseman/utility player Stephen Batts leads the team in batting average (.373), triples (4), and RBI (29).
Senior clean-up hitter Ryan Tousley (.307) has blasted a team-high six home runs and is tied for the team-lead with 29 RBI.
3B/DH Drew Schieber, C/3B Corey Kemp, and LF Brandon Henderson are other capable bats in the ECU line-up. Schieber and Kemp have been hot as of late while Henderson is second on the team with five home runs. Schieber is hitting .389 in 54 AB’s and has three round trippers to his credit.
The Pirates’ starting pitching has been superb also, but they’ve relied more on their fielders than the strikeout. Although his ERA is higher than Sasser and Dowdy’s combined, ECU Friday night starter T.J. Hose has pitched pretty well. When he has struggled, it has been largely due to control issues. Dowdy emerged as the Pirates’ Sunday starter after his outstanding outing in the 2-0 loss to Campbell. He has followed through, as his ERA is only 2.03. The sophomore righty doesn’t strike many people out, but he has been around the plate and allowed his fielders to do the work for him.
ECU’s primary set-up man is lefty Jason Neitz, who has struck out 23 while walking only four in 19.2 innings of work. Closer Shane Mathews (2-2, 1.64 ERA) has limited opponents to a meager .103 average at the plate. The Pirates’ closer, who has hit 95 or 96 this season, has struck out 31 batters and only allowed seven hits in 22 innings. He has recorded eight saves and would have more if not for several blowouts.
This staff must come through with another solid outing this weekend, as it will face a Tulane team that is hitting .292 with 22 home runs. The Green Wave is slugging slightly over .400 and is led by shortstop Cat Everett’s .350 mark. Brad Emaus and Anthony Scelfo are also hitting above .300, as they’re presently at .317 and .316, respectively. Emaus has belted a team-high four home runs while Scelfo has swiped eight bases in ten attempts. Sophomore centerfielder Nate Simon leads the team with 22 RBI.
ECU @ Tulane - PITCHING ROTATION — PROJECTED STARTERS
ECU @ Tulane - PREDICTION
Expect a closely contested series with at least a couple, if not all three games, being in the 5-3 to 7-4 type range. The best opportunity for a high-scoring game will be on Sunday, but even that doesn’t appear very likely (at least on paper). Solid offensive clubs will have the opportunity to beat outstanding pitching. If the Pirates can keep playing the way they have lately, don’t be surprised if they pick up a huge series victory. Don’t expect either team to sweep the other though.