GREENVILLE, N.C. – A three-run double off the bat of Ryan McCrystal in the sixth inning allowed No. 10 East Carolina to pull away for an 11-3 victory over George Mason in the teams’ series opener Friday night at Lewis Field inside Clark-LeClair Stadium.
The Pirates (17-5) racked up double-digit hits and received yet another quality start out of ace Trey Yesavage to send the Patriots (11-10) to their second-straight loss.
McCrystal drove in a game-high three runs and went 3-for-5 while Jacob Jenkins-Cowart chipped in with two hits and a pair of RBI. James Quinn Irons paced the visiting club with two hits and a run scored.
Yesavage (4-0) remained unbeaten on the mound, twiring seven strong innings and matching his career-high strikeout total with 11 (third time this season). ECU dealt Ben Shields (4-1) his first loss as the southpaw surrendered seven runs (all earned) on six hits with four walks and four strikeouts.
After Yesavage put away the first six batters he faced, East Carolina produced the game’s first scoring threat in the second. With one away, Cam Clonch singled through the right side before Carter Cunningham dropped an 0-1 offering down the right field line to push Joey Berini to third. Shields would get out of the jam by inducing a fly ball to right center.
George Mason grabbed an early advantage in the top of the third thanks to a leadoff home run off the bat of Connor Dykstra. However, Jenkins-Cowart answered back in the home half of the frame with a two-out solo blast to right. He would then put the Pirates in front in the fifth, roping a two-out single into right center to score Alec Makarewicz who walked to begin the frame.
The Patriots were able to tie things up at two in the sixth as South Trimble utilized a wild pitch to score from third, but ECU responded with a five spot in the bottom half to seize control. Jacob Starling drew a walk to lead off the inning before Clonch was hit by a pitch. George Mason intentionally walked Cunningham to load the bases with one out, but Makarewicz made them pay with a hit by pitch RBI that plated Starling. Ryley Johnson followed with a walk to extend the Pirate lead to 4-2 and McCrystal sent an 0-1 pitch into the gap in right center to clear the bases and leave East Carolina with a 7-2 advantage.
After Starling and Clonch walked to start the bottom of the seventh, they moved into scoring position on a sac bunt by Nathan Chrismon. Cunningham then delivered a two-run double to make it 9-2. Lane Hoover, who entered to play left field in the top of the seventh, provided the contest’s exclamation mark, drilling his second career home run over the Taco Bell sign in right to give the Purple and Gold an 11-2 cushion. Willie Lumpkin and Danny Beal tidied things up in the eighth and ninth frames, yielding just one more hit and striking out four in a pair of scoreless innings.
- East Carolina improved to 14-1 inside Clark-LeClair Stadium, matching the best start to a home season since the 2021 squad also won 14 of its first 15 in Greenville.
- The Pirates recorded double figures in the hit column for the 13th time in the campaign while the pitching staff struck out double-digit hitters (14) for the 13th time this season.
- ECU continued its 2023 trend of notching a victory after a loss.
- Jenkins-Cowart posted his team-leading ninth multi-hit effort of the season (tied with Starling)
- Hoover’s home run marked his second career long ball and first ever at Clark-LeClair Stadium.
Up Next: East Carolina and George Mason reconvene Saturday afternoon for game two of the series. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.