GREENVILLE, N.C. -Zach Woods struck out seven in 6 1/3 innings and Cam Freeman drove in a pair of runs to lift No. 26 East Carolina to a 6-3 win over UAB in the Friday night Conference USA series opener at Lewis Field inside Clark-LeClair Stadium. With the win the Pirates improve to 22-12 overall and 4-3 in league play, while the Blazers fall to 20-13 and 5-5.
Woods picked up his fifth win of the season and first in C-USA play after allowing two runs (one earned) on six hits with two walks. The win is just the third for the Pirates on a Friday night this season (Illinois and N.C. Central). Shawn Armstrong came out of the bull pen to toss 1 2/3 shutout innings giving up one hit, an infield single, with one strikeout. Seth Simmons made his 18th appearance of the season striking out the side despite allowing one run on three hits.
Mitch Kloskowski fell to 3-3 after surrendering six runs (all earned) on six hits with five walks and three punch outs in 7 1/3 innings. Ben Bullard closed the game pitching the final 2/3 innings with a strike out.
John Frost put the Blazers up 1-0 in the first on a double down the right field line that scored Jamal Austin from third. Austin led off with a single up the middle then stole second and moved to third on Jonathan Merritt's ground out to Woods.
ECU responded with two runs in the second taking a 2-1 lead. John Wooten and Devin Harris roped back-to-back doubles before Philip Clark moved Harris to third on a sac bunt and Freeman pushed him home on a sac fly to center.
A pair of singles up the middle by Freeman and Corey Thompson extended the Pirates lead to 4-1. Clark led off with a walk, stole second and scored on Freeman's base knock back up the middle. Jared Avchen's sac bunt moved Freeman to third and Trent Whitehead put runners on the corners with his one-out walk. Thompson followed with a hard hit single up the middle that scored Freeman, putting ECU up three.
In the seventh the Blazers made things interesting until Armstrong took the bump and stopped a potential rally. Andrew Manning led off with a single then took second when Thompson couldn't turn a double play putting runners on first and second. Bradley Hicks reached on a fielder's choice that resulted in Manning being thrown out at third by Avchen on his sac bunt attempt. Austin stepped into the box and laced a double down the right field line, just out of the reach of Roller at first, scoring Harry Clark reducing the lead to 4-2. Armstrong spelled Woods and got out of the Pirates out of the jam when Nick Crawford popped out to Wooten in foul territory and Merritt grounded out to Wooten for the final out, leaving two runners stranded in scoring position.
Whitehead's RBI double in the bottom half of the seventh pushed the Pirates lead back to three, 5-2. Avchen, who extended his hit streak to six games with his single, scored from first on Whitehead's two-base hit down the left field line.
ECU plated another run in the eight for a 6-2 advantage when Roller scored on Austin Homan's sac fly to center. Roller walked to open the frame extending his streak to 33-straight games reaching base safely. Zach Wright followed with another walk before being lifted for a pinch runner and Wooten moved Roller and Chris Gosik up 90 feet on a sac bunt, setting up Homan's pinch hit RBI.
UAB tried to rally once more in the ninth but Simmons fanned Frost with runners on second and third to end the game. With two men down, Austin reached base for the third time on a single then landed on third on Crawford's double to right center. Merritt followed with UAB's third consecutive hit, a seeing-eye single through the left side, plating Austin for the games final run.
The two teams will be back in action Saturday afternoon when they meet for game two of the three-game C-USA series at 5 p.m. (EDT).