ORLANDO, Fla. - Junior Jharel Cotton recorded a career-best 11 strikeouts and five Pirate hitters recorded multiple hits as No. 25 East Carolina (16-7, 1-2 C-USA) avoided an opening weekend sweep in Conference USA action at the hands of No. 19 UCF (19-6, 2-1 C-USA) Sunday afternoon at Jay Bergman Field, 15-6.
Cotton (5-0) notched his team-leading fifth win of the season working seven innings where he allowed two runs (both earned) on 10 hits with one walk. Jeff Hoffman tossed a scoreless inning of relief and Drew Reynolds allowed four runs closing out the ninth frame.
Eric Skoglund (3-1) was saddled with his first loss of the season after working 2 1/3 innings where he surrendered four runs (two earned) on four hits with a pair of strikeouts and two walks before being pulled for Garrett Nuss in the third with the bases loaded. Nuss went two innings allowing one run on four hits. The Knights would go on to used four more hurlers that each tossed at least one inning and gave up a combined 10 runs.
Offensively the Pirates pounded out a season-high 19 hits with Jack Reinheimer going 5-for-6 with five runs scored in the leadoff spot. Jay Cannon, John Wooten and Tim Younger each added three hits and Reynolds and Zach Wright added a pair.
For the third time in the series, the Pirates struck early taking a 2-0 lead on a two-out two-RBI single by Cannon. Wooten, who extended his current hitting streak to 10 games, laced an opening frame single to center and took second when Wright reached on a fielding error by Tommy Williams at third. Both runners moved up 90 feet on a Skoglund balk before crossing home on Cannon’s base hit to right field.
ECU added a pair of runs in the third thanks to Younger’s double and Wright’s fielder’s choice pushing the lead to 4-0. Reinheimer led off with a single to left field and came around to score on Younger’s third two-base it of the season. Thompson pushed Younger to third on a ground out, which was followed by consecutive walks by Wooten and Chase McDonald loading the bases for Wright’s fielder’s choice that scored Younger.
Younger extended the Pirates lead to five, 5-0, in the fourth inning on another RBI single. Reinheimer doubled to left center with two outs and came around to score on Younger’s second base hit of the day and the Pirates never looked back.
UCF finally got on the board in the bottom of the fourth on Alex Friedrich’s second home run of the weekend and third of the season pulling the Knights within four, 5-1.
Darnell Sweeney’s single to left center scored Travis Shreve to pull UCF within three, 5-2. Shreve singled with one out and took third on Ronnie Richardson’s double to left field before Sweeney recorded his first hit of the afternoon.
ECU responded with a run in the sixth on Thompson’s sacrifice fly, a five-run seventh, which was highlighted by Thompson’s two-run homer, and closed out the game with four runs in the ninth staking the Pirates to an 15-2 lead.
UCF pushed across four in the bottom of the ninth to cap the game at 15-6.
The Pirates will be back in action next Wednesday, Mar. 28 when the travel to Raleigh, N.C. to play No. 11 N.C. State.