ELON, N.C. – A quartet of East Carolina players tallied multi-hit efforts Wednesday evening as the 12th-ranked Pirates knocked off Elon 5-1 at Latham Park.
ECU (9-3) will carry a three-game winning streak into this weekend’s non-conference home series with Liberty while the Phoenix dropped to 7-6 in advance of their Colonial Athletic Association opening set with Northeastern.
Ryley Johnson provided a spark from the ninth spot in the lineup, going 2-for-4 with an RBI while Jacob Starling, Joey Berini and Justin Wilcoxen contributed two hits apiece themselves. Ryan Sprock topped the Elon offense with a three-hit performance.
Zach Root (2-0) snagged his second win of the campaign in relief, turning in five scoreless innings with three strikeouts and a walk. He scattered three hits and needed just 64 pitches to get through a very solid outing. Cole Reynolds (1-1) took the loss after the Pirates touched him up for three runs on six hits.
Starling staked East Carolina out to an early lead in the first, hammering a 3-1 offering high over the wall in left center for his team high-tying third home run of the campaign. After started Jake Hunter sliced his way through the Elon side in the home half, the Pirates stretched their advantage further in the second.
Berini posted a one-out infield single to short before Wilcoxen sent one just past the outstretched glove of the shortstop into left center to put a pair of Pirates on. The runners proceeded to steal second and third, forcing an errant throw past the hot corner that allowed Berini to score easily to make it 2-0. Johnson kept things moving with a single up the middle that plated Wilcoxen to leave ECU with a three-run cushion.
The Phoenix attempted to rally in the bottom of the second, loading the bases with two outs via a single and pair of walks, but Hunter froze Connor Coolahan on a 1-2 pitch to keep the home side at bay.
Elon scratched the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth thanks to a Sprock leadoff double and subsequent Justin Cassella RBI single. The Phoenix got another runner into scoring position with two outs when Tanner Holliman singled to left field and moved to second on a wild pitch, but reliever Danny Beal unleashed a 1-2 slider that coaxed Coolahan to swing and miss.
With the respective pitching staffs settling in, the Phoenix threatened to cut into the two-run deficit when Sprock led off with a single to right, moved to second on a wild pitch and to third on a deep fly out to center, but Root induced a grounder to short to end the frame.
ECU closed the deal in the eighth and ninth innings. Starling doubled to lead off the penultimate frame and scored on a Carter Cunningham RBI sac bunt while Berini roped his own two-bagger into the right center gap in the final inning before crossing home on another Elon fielding error. Root sailed through the home half of the ninth, getting Holliman to ground into a game-ending double play.
- East Carolina improved to 58-34-1 all time against Elon and has won 15 of the last 16 meetings with the Phoenix at Latham Park.
- Starling notched his team-high sixth multi-hit effort of the season.
- The Pirate pitching staff struck out double-digit batters for the sixth time this season.
- East Carolina stole a season-high seven bases, including three by Luke Nowak who leads the club with eight.
- ECU picked up its third true road win of the campaign.
Up Next: East Carolina opens its series with visiting Liberty Friday, March 10, at 6 p.m. inside Clark-LeClair Stadium.