GREENVILLE, N.C. – Despite trailing early in both games of a season-opening doubleheader Saturday, No. 11 East Carolina found its offensive stride in each contest to record a sweep of George Washington at Clark-LeClair Stadium.
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The Pirates (2-0) will attempt to capture their sixth Opening Weekend sweep since 2015 in the series finale Sunday at 1 p.m.
Justin Wilcoxen stole the show at the dish, going 7-for-10 with five runs scored and four RBI in the two games. The pitching staff also excelled on the whole, combining for 23 strikeouts while allowing just two earned runs in the second affair.
Local businesses happy for the start of ECU’s baseball season
Game One: East Carolina 9, George Washington 5
George Washington broke through in the top of the third, scoring four runs on four hits via a trio of RBI knocks including a Noah Levin two-run single. Wilcoxen put ECU on the board in the home half of the inning, driving in Joey Berini from third on the back of a RBI groundout.
After Zach Root entered the contest in the top of the fifth and set the Colonials down in order, the Pirates dug down and collected three runs to knot the score at four. Lane Hoover led things off with an infield single before Wilcoxen unloaded on a 1-2 offering and deposited it over the right field wall to make it 4-3. East Carolina then pulled even thanks to a one-out Luke Nowak RBI double that plated Jacob Starling.
The Pirates put the game away in the latter frames, scoring five runs in the final three innings. Starling provided the exclamation mark with a three-run shot to left field in the bottom of the eighth. Notably, Tyler Bradt came into a high-leverage spot in the top of the eighth with a pair of GW runners on and ECU leading 5-4. He slammed the door shut by fanning Steve Ditomaso looking.
Root (1-0) was phenomenal in his collegiate debut, tossing 3.2 scoreless innings with five strikeouts against one walk while scattering two hits to pick up the victory. Bradt made his first appearance in the Purple and Gold, recording his first save by striking out three in the final 1.1 frames. Garrett Saylor sparked the bullpen with 1.1 innings of scoreless work after relieving starter Carter Spivey in the top of the third. Connor Harris (0-1) took the loss after surrendering four runs (three earned) on six hits in 2.2 innings pitched.
Wilcoxen paced ECU offensively with a 3-for-5 performance as he finished with four RBI and two runs scored. Starling also enjoyed a productive season opener, racking up two hits and two runs scored and driving in three runs. Brett Young went 3-for-5 with a run scored and RBI for the visitors.
Game Two: East Carolina 11, George Washington 2
George Washington bolted out to a lead in the top of the third for the second-straight game, taking advantage of a few Pirate miscues to score a pair of runs. East Carolina had the answer once more in the bottom of the fourth, however. Hoover reached on a throwing error before Wilcoxen doubled to left to put the Pirates in business. With the bases loaded, Nowak drove in Hoover on a fielder’s choice and Wilcoxen scored on a steal attempt to leave the contest at 2-2.
ECU exploded in the bottom of the sixth, seizing full control with an eight spot. The highlight was the first career grand slam off the bat of Jacob Jenkins-Cowart who blasted a two-out 1-1 pitch well over the fence in right field to stretch the Pirate advantage to 10-2. Alec Makarewicz plated Wilcoxen with his second career triple in the bottom of the seventh before the Colonials scored a consolation run in the ninth to provide the final margin.
Merritt Beeker (1-0) recorded his second career win on the mound, throwing 1.1 scoreless innings with three strikeouts. East Carolina starter Trey Yesavage went five innings with a career-high seven punchouts. Chris Kahler (0-1) was tagged with the loss as he was touched up for three runs (one earned) on two hits and a pair of walks in 5.1 frames of work.
Wilcoxen had a career performance in the nightcap, putting together a 4-for-5 showing with three runs scored while Jenkins-Cowart rapped out a pair of base hits and four RBI.
- The official attendance of 4,777 was the second-largest Opening Day crowd at Clark-LeClair Stadium since 2007.
- Makarewicz tallied his second career Opening Day triple (2021 versus Rhode Island).
- East Carolina reached double figures in the hit column in both contests.
- The Pirates went 3-for-4 with a runner on third and less than two outs in game two.
- ECU improved to 86-42 under head coach Cliff Godwin in games played on Saturday.