Diamond Pirates continue CUSA play at UAB
East Carolina has won eight of its last nine
Following a rare offensive explosion in its 20-5 win at rival UNC-Wilmington on Wednesday, East Carolina (19-5, 2-1) will travel to Birmingham to play its second league series against UAB this weekend.
Runs had been tough to come by for the Pirates, as they had averaged just 4.5 runs per game through their first 23 games. However, after swinging the bats better without much production to show for it versus Memphis, the hits and runs came in bunches as ECU pushed across 20 runs on 20 hits against Seahawk pitching.
The Pirates, who have won their last two and eight of nine, have pitched exceptionally well to date. The veteran staff, which is under the tutelage of new coach Dan Roszel, ranks second nationally with a team ERA of just 1.81. 2010 CUSA Pitcher-of-the-Year Seth Maness (4-1, 1.99) has highlighted the weekend rotation. Opponents are hitting just .201 against Maness, who has already worked three complete games. He has struck out 41 while walking just five in 45.1 innings. Meanwhile, Mike Wright (4-0, 2.06) has established himself as a strong Saturday starter. Wright allowed just two runs on five hits against Memphis last weekend, but went just five innings after walking a season-high six batters.
However, the Pirates will be without Sunday starter Kevin Brandt (2-0, 0.83), who was recently suspended by head coach Billy Godwin for an indefinite amount of time. Seldom-used lefty reliever Patrick Somers is also serving an indefinite suspension. Expect sophomore hard-throwing righty Shawn Armstrong (1-0, 3.60) to step into that role. Armstrong, who has made three mid-week starts, has limited opponents to a .246 mark. However, he has struggled to find the strike zone at times as he has walked nine and hit two in 15 innings of work.
There haven't been many calls to the bullpen, but when it has been called upon it has usually been lights out. Brad Mincey (4-1, 0.36) has allowed just 17 hits in 25.1 innings of work over 13 relief appearances. Meanwhile, Seth Simmons and Jake Harris have excelled in short relief, situational and closer roles. Simmons (3-0, 0.00) is yet to allow a run in 12.2 innings and opponents are hitting just .100 against him. He leads the club with four saves. Harris (0-1, 0.93), who has two saves, has surrendered just five hits while striking out 11 in 9.2 innings. Sophomore Joseph Hughes and freshman Austin Chrismon may need to see more action this weekend depending on what ECU gets out of its starters.
The team batting average went from .281 to .289 after Wednesday night's effort. Freshman Jack Reinheimer leads the team with his .343 mark. Junior Corey Thompson and freshman Ben Fultz also hit at or above the .340 mark. Thompson is third on the club with seven doubles and has driven in the second most runs (17). Junior catcher Zach Wright, who is hitting .298, leads the team in home runs (7) and rbi (19). Leadoff man Trent Whitehead has a team-best ten doubles while utility man John Wooten is second with nine.
The Blazers (14-10, 2-1) will enter the weekend fresh off a 5-1 upset of No. 21 Alabama at Regions Park in Hoover on Wednesday. UAB took two-of-three from Marshall last weekend despite scoring just seven runs in the series. After splitting a pair of 3-2 games, it outlasted the Thundering Herd to take a 2-1, 14-inning victory in the rubber match. The Blazers hit just .262 as a team and have hit just six home runs. Like the Pirates, they've won largely with pitching and defense. Opponents are batting just .233 and UAB possess a strong fielding percentage of .971.
Centerfielder Jamal Austin leads the team with his .378 batting average. The Blazers' leadoff man has also swiped 16 bases in 20 attempts. Clean-up hitter Patrick Palmeiro leads the team in home runs (3), rbi (17), and doubles (7).
The weekend rotation has performed well--particularly on Friday and Saturday nights. Dillon Napoleon (3-1, 2.13) has limited opponents to a .212 average. Saturday starter Ryan Woolley, while just 3-3, has an impressive 2.70 ERA. He has struck out 41 while walking just eight. The Sunday role hasn't been as solidified, but Michael Busby (0-1, 4.50) pitched well last weekend against Marshall when he went six innings and gave up just one run on three hits. For the season, he has experienced control issues, as he has walked as many as he has struck out (10).
Mark McKinley, Blake Huddleston, and Ben Bullard are the Blazers top middle relief options. They each have made at least seven appearances and worked 13 or more innings. McKinley has allowed just nine hits in 13.1 innings.
The top bullpen option, however, is closer Ryan Nance. Nance, who already notched six saves, has struck out 21 in 13.2 innings and opponents are batting just .104 against him.
The teams will open the series at 7:30 p.m. (EST) on Friday before meeting at 3:00 on Saturday and 2:00 on Sunday.
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