GREENVILLE, N.C. – No. 12 East Carolina completed an impressive series sweep of Atlantic Sun Conference preseason favorite Liberty Saturday, taking both ends of a doubleheader by scores of 10-2 and 13-1 at Clark-LeClair Stadium.
Coupled with Friday’s 7-2 win over the Flames (7-8), the Pirates (12-3) swept their second series of the season and won their fourth straight series to open the 2023 campaign. ECU also ran its winning streak to six games.
East Carolina matched a couple of single-game school records in the nightcap, drawing 15 walks – including five by Luke Nowak alone. The Pirate pitching staff also struck out 19 batters to fall one shy of the program record.
Game One: East Carolina 10, Liberty 2
Alec Makarewicz put together a career day at the plate in Saturday’s opener, going 4-for-4 with two runs scored, three RBI and a pair of home runs. Jacob Jenkins-Cowart and Josh Moylan also contributed two hits piece while Moylan added two runs scored and a duo of RBI. Jaylen Guy topped the Flames’ offensive efforts with three hits (all singles).
Carter Spivey (1-1) notched his first win of the season on the bump, turning in a six-inning quality start during which he allowed just one earned run (two total) on seven hits with a walk and four strikeouts. Nick Moran (1-1) was saddled with the loss after yielding eight runs on 10 hits. He walked three and struck out two.
Spivey ran into some trouble in the top of the first when Gray Betts and Brayden Horton singled consecutively to lead off the contest. The fifth-year pitcher recovered though, retiring the next three batters to keep things scoreless. Jenkins-Cowart got the offense moving with two away in the home half of the first, lacing a two-out single up the middle. Moylan and Justin Wilcoxen then produced back-to-back doubles that resulted in a pair of RBI, leaving ECU with a 2-0 advantage after one complete.
Liberty scratched the scoreboard in the top of the second when Jake Lazzaro drew a leadoff walk and eventually scored on a John Simmons RBI groundout. Spivey took care of a weak grounder on the infield for the third out.
East Carolina kept the pedal down in the bottom of the second. Makarewicz turned on the first pitch he saw with one out and sent it sailing over the wall in left center to put the Pirates ahead 3-1. A couple of walks and a Jacob Starling hit by pitch loaded up the bases and Jenkins-Cowart drove in another run via an infield single. Moylan then reached on a fielder’s choice to help ECU build a 5-1 cushion.
The Pirates began to pull away in the fourth, putting up three runs on the strength of a Carter Cunningham RBI single and Makarewicz two-run long ball to left field. Both teams scored in the sixth, including the first home run of Joey Berini’s career, pushing the margin to 9-2 in favor of the Purple and Gold, while Nathan Chrismon provided the game’s final tally by walking, stealing second and scoring on a wild pitch and errant throw into the outfield by Betts.
Game Two: East Carolina 4, Liberty 1
Moylan put forth a monster effort at the plate in the nightcap, going 3-for-4 with two runs scored and three RBI. Nowak also finished the affair with three runs scored and five walks. Lazzaro collected two hits to lead the visitors.
Josh Grosz (2-0) was spectacular at times, recording East Carolina’s third quality start of the weekend as he went six innings and held the Flames to one run on two hits with four walks and a career-high 11 strikeouts. Mikey Tepper (0-2) was tagged with the loss after the Pirates touched him up for six runs (five earned) on four hits and six walks.
After Grosz needed just nine pitches to retire the side in the top of the first, the ECU lineup produced a four spot in the home half to seize control. Nowak and Starling worked consecutive walks before Jenkins-Cowart beat out a throw to first for an infield single to load the bases. A fielder’s choice and Flames error brought two across while Ryan McCrystal followed with a sharp single up the middle to score Moylan. Cunningham then reached on a fielder’s choice that allowed Berini to score and make it 4-0.
Liberty cut into its deficit in the second when Three Hillier walked to lead off the frame and later scored on a double off the bat of Cam Foster. The Flames threatened to tack on more in the fourth, but Grosz buckled down and stranded a runner at third by striking out Andrew Jenner and getting Guy to fly out to left.
East Carolina only added to its lead in the home half of the fourth, using three more walks to load the bases before Moylan singled to right field to score Lane Hoover. Berini then lined out to left field to plate Nowak and extend the advantage to 6-1.
Just one more half inning featured scoring the remainder of the game as the Pirates exploded for seven in the sixth to move in front 13-1. A quartet of walks, two hits and two Liberty errors paved the way with Moylan driving in the contest’s final tally thanks to an RBI single that plated pinch hitter Cam Clonch. The reliever trio of Garrett Saylor, Merritt Beeker and Tyler Bradt gave up just one hit in the final three frames while recording eight strikeouts.
- East Carolina improved to 11-5 against Liberty in the all-time series between the programs.
- The Pirates ran their home record to 9-1.
- ECU’s pitching staff recorded a season-high 19 strikeouts and have fanned double-digit batters in seven games.
- Makarewicz tallied his second career multi-home run effort and his first career four-hit outing in game one.
- Berini’s first career home run occurred in his 105th career at bat.
- Moylan extended his current hitting streak to eight games.
- Grosz has recorded double-digit strikeouts in two-straight starts.
- Nowak’s five walks were the most by a Pirate batter in a game since Mark Shank did so against Barton College in a 27-15 victory on March 6, 1985.
- Freshman Nick DeLisi collected his first career hit in the eighth inning of game two.
- McCrystal made his first start of the campaign in the nightcap.
Up Next: East Carolina kicks off another five-game week Tuesday, March 14, at UNCW. First pitch from Brooks Field is scheduled for 6 p.m.