CINCINNATI – No. 14 East Carolina put it all together Saturday afternoon, coasting to an 11-3 win over Cincinnati at the UC Baseball Stadium to clinch their fourth American Athletic Conference series of the campaign.
The Pirates (33-14, 11-6 AAC) uncorked a 14-hit barrage and handed the Bearcats (20-26, 8-10 AAC) their second-straight league loss after Cincy entered the weekend just one game behind ECU in the AAC standings.
Carter Spivey (5-2) was deemed the winning pitcher as he completed 2.2 scoreless innings and notched a strikeout. Bearcat starter Chase Hopewell (2-5) took the loss, surrendering four runs on six hits with four walks and one strikeout in five frames of work. Josh Grosz put in a solid 4.2 innings in his 12th start of the season, throwing 4.2 scoreless with two walks and four strikeouts.
Justin Wilcoxen had another big offensive day, going 2-for-4 with two runs scored and five RBI while Jacob Starling and Joey Berini both chipped in with three hits apiece. Alec Jones paced the home side with a pair of base knocks.
East Carolina got the offense in gear early for the second-straight day as Lane Hoover drew a leadoff walk and Josh Moylan tattooed a 2-0 offering off the wall in deep center for an RBI triple and a 1-0 Pirate advantage. Cincinnati attempted to answer in the home half of the third, getting runners on first and second via a pair of one-out singles, but Alec Makarewicz made a nice grab at third, stepped on the bag and fired to first to complete the inning-ending double play.
Some nice two-out hitting and plate discipline led to another ECU run in the third. With Starling at first and one out, Jacob Jenkins-Cowart singled to right center and Luke Nowak drew a walk to load the bases before Wilcoxen also worked a free pass to plate Starling and make it 2-0. Hopewell limited the damage by inducing a pop up to short.
After a lull in the scoring through the middle innings, the Pirates finally chased Hopewell in the top of the sixth when Wilcoxen and Berini single through the right side to lead off the frame. Ryan McCrystal then worked a full count walk to load the bases and Hoover delivered a sac fly to push the lead to 3-0. Facing a 2-2 count, Starling displayed some opposite field power, launching his eighth home run of the campaign over the fence in right to afford East Carolina a 6-0 upper hand.
The Bearcats were able to scratch across a run in the home half of the sixth. With the bases loaded and one out (two walks and a single), Josh Hegemann put a ball in play to first that allowed Kerrington Cross to score and reduce the Cincinnati deficit to five.
ECU put any doubt to bed in the top of the ninth, using small ball to load the bases with no outs as Starling ripped a leadoff single to left and Moylan and Cunningham laid down infield bunt singles against the shift. Ryley Johnson extended the Pirate lead to 7-1 with a RBI single before Wilcoxen drilled a 2-0 pitch to the turf field beyond the left center wall for a grand slam and a 10-run Purple and Gold advantage. The Bearcats put some consolation runs on the board in the bottom of the ninth in the form of a Landyn Vidourek two-run home run.
- East Carolina won its fifth decision over Cincinnati this season and 11th straight in the all-time series.
- The Pirates improved to 7-9 in true road games.
- ECU ran its record to 16-0 when hitting at least two home runs and 21-2 when scoring first.
- East Carolina was 5-for-9 with runners in scoring position and notched four two-out RBI.
- Starling secured his third three-hit effort in the last seven games.
Up Next: East Carolina attempts to collect its third AAC series sweep of the season Sunday at 1 p.m.