GREENVILLE, N.C. – Matt Margaritonda tossed his first career complete game recording a career-high 11 strikeouts in Marshall’s Conference USA series clinching win over East Carolina, 5-2, Sunday afternoon at Lewis Field inside Clark-LeClair Stadium.
Margaritonda (1-2), who was making just his fourth career start, scattered nine hits on the afternoon allowing a pair of runs (one earned) en route to The Herd’s (5-9, 2-1 C-USA) first-ever series win over the Pirates (8-7. 1-2 C-USA). The right-hander punched out at least one batter in eight of nine frames and recorded multiple strikeouts in the second, third and seventh stanzas.
For the 14th time in 15 games, ECU fell behind early when Marshall scored a pair of runs in the second inning for a 2-0 advantage. Chase Vogelbach singled to right field and rounded the bases on a Matt Reed walk, a Pirate error off the bat of T.J. Diffenderfer and crossed home on Eric Escobedo’s sac fly to right field. Reed would score two batters later on Robert Fajardo’s single to right field.
Marshall scored the would-be game-winning run an inning later on Fajardo’s sac fly to center pushing across Cory Garrastazu, who pinch ran for Reed after injuring his hand sliding into third. Vogelbach plated The Herd’s final two runs, which came on a solo blast to left field in the fifth and a sac fly to center in the seventh.
Davis Kirkpatrick (1-1) took the loss for the Pirates working three full frames where he was touched for three runs (all earned) on two hits with three free passes and a strikeout. Brett Mabry made his fifth appearance out of the pen tossing five full innings of long relief where he gave up two runs (one earned) on two hits with a pair of punch-outs. Drew Reynolds came in and worked a perfect ninth recording one strikeout.
Trailing 5-0, ECU finally scratched across a couple of runs in the seventh pulling within three. Zach Houchins, who was 2-for-4 on the day and 7-for-12 in the series, singled to left to start the inning and came around to score on Ben Fultz’ RBI triple to right center. But that’s as close as the Pirates would get as miscues on the base paths and in the field would come back to haunt them.
Limited to just three hits through five innings, Eric Tyler started the sixth by reaching on an infield single to third. Kirk Morgan followed with a bunt single and the Pirates looked poised to break through. But on the same play that Reynolds popped up on moon-shot to short, Tyler was picked off at second making it two quick outs for The Herd. Morgan would end the stanza when he was caught stealing on the next pitch thwarting a potential run-scoring frame.
Despite allowing four hits on the day, the ECU pitching staff walked four, plunked two and the defense committed four errors.
The Pirates will look to right the ship quickly as they head into their spring break with a five-game week. Next up will be a re-match with instate foe UNC Greensboro on Tuesday, Mar. 11 at home (5 p.m.), followed by a neutral site contest in Wilson, N.C. against Atlantic Coast Conference member Wake Forest on Wednesday, Mar. 12 at Fleming Stadium with a 6 p.m. (EST) first pitch scheduled. ECU will close the week with a home league series against Tulane, Mar. 14-16.