GREENVILLE, N.C. - Junior Jharel Cotton scattered four hits over six innings and redshirt sophomore Tanner Merritt notched his first collegiate save as No. 30 East Carolina (8-2) completed a three-game series sweep against Stony Brook (4-3) with a 4-3 victory Sunday afternoon at Lewis Field inside Clark-LeClair Stadium.
Cotton, who improved to 2-0 on the season, allowed one run (unearned) and struck out four with one walk in his third outing of the season before turning the game over to the Pirates bullpen. Freshman Jeff Hoffman and junior Andy Smithmyer worked the seventh frame each allowing a run (both unearned), while Merritt closed out the series with giving up a pair of hits in two scoreless frames.
Unlike the first two games of the weekend, the Pirates struck for four runs early plating a pair in the second and third stanza’s to chase Stony Brook starting pitcher Evan Stecko-Haley (1-1) in the fifth. Stecko-Haley was touched for all four runs (two earned) on eight hits with a walk and strikeout in just 4 1/3 innings. Reliever Jasvir Rakkar limited the Pirates to just three hits over the final 3 2/3 frames in his second outing of the young season.
Senior Tim Younger delivered the early blow in the second with a one-out single to left field scoring Jay Cannon and Zach Wright putting ECU up 2-0. Cannon, who scored twice on the afternoon, started the stanza by reaching on the second of three Seawolves errors when third baseman William Carmona couldn’t handle a ground ball to his left. Wright followed with his first hit of the afternoon singling up the middle before designated hitter Chris Gosik moved both runners into scoring position on a sac bunt. Younger stepped to the play and teed-off on a 2-0 pitch driving the ball to left field clearing the bases.
The Pirates struck for two more in the third thanks to Cannon’s RBI double and another Stony Brook miscue. Corey Thompson singled to left-center to start the stanza and scored on Cannon’s two-bagger to left center with one out. Wright followed by reaching on an error by Kevin Courtney on a throw from shortstop Cole Peragine that scored Cannon for the would-be game-winning run.
Stony Brook took advantage of three ECU errors and clawed back into the contest scoring runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. Preseason All-American Travis Jankowski doubled to left field with one out and landed on third when Thompson tried to throw him out at second where the ball skipped into right field. Pat Cantwell later drove in Jankowski on a ground out to short for the Seawolves first run of the game.
In the seventh Stony Brook pulled within two, 4-2 on another Pirate error. Max Tissenbaum singled through the right side off Hoffman then took second with Kevin Krause drew a free pass. Peragine moved the runners up 90 feet on a sac bunt back to the mound and Tanner Nivins loaded the bases when he was plunked by a Hoffman pitch. After head coach Billy Godwin went to the bullpen for the second time in the inning, Sal Intagliata reached on an error by Smithmyer on a lazy ball sent back to the mound, but Smithmyer couldn’t retrieve the ball from his glove allowing Tissenbaum to score easily. Smithmyer would work out of the jam getting Krause out at home on a fielder’s choice and forcing Jankowski to ground out to Younger at second base.
The Seawolves closed the gap to one, 4-3, in the eighth on yet another error by the Pirates. Cantwell walked before Merritt spelled Smithmyer then took second on William Carmona’s ground out back to the bump. With two outs, Krause sent a dribbler down the third base line where Thompson came charging in to make a play at first, but Krause was safe. On the same play, Cantwell took off for third and John Wooten tried to throw him out at the hot corner, but Reinheimer couldn’t complete the play – dropping the ball and allowing Cantwell to score.
Offensively the Pirates pounded out a series-high 11 hits with Reinheimer, Thompson and Wright each collecting a pair of base knocks, while Younger led all players with two RBI.
ECU will hit the road during its Spring Break traveling to Troy for a midweek matchup on Wednesday, Mar. 7 (7 p.m. ET) and then will take a two-hour trek to Tuscaloosa, Ala., where they will participate in the University of Alabama’s Tournament from Mar. 9-11.