GREENVILLE, N.C. – No. 25 Virginia got a grand performance from Kenny Towns, who hit a pair of grand slams, and rode solid pitching from three freshmen arms to take game one of a three-game series from No. 37 East Carolina 14-4 Saturday afternoon at Lewis Field inside Clark-LeClair Stadium.
In a matchup that pitted two of the best young arms on the East Coast in UVA’s Brandon Waddell and ECU’s Jeff Hoffman (0-1), the Cavaliers hitters shined taking advantage of 12 free bases (seven walks, five hit batters) exploding for four runs in the first and eight in the seventh frame.
Towns, who had just 12 career RBI entering the contest, drove in a career-high eight runs thanks to his first two career homers. In the bottom of the first frame, he took a 1-0 offering from Hoffman to right field staking UVA to an early 4-0 lead and the Cavaliers never looked back. Branden Cogswell led off the game with a single, Derek Fisher was hit by a pitch with one out and Joe McCarthy loaded the bases with a two-out walk setting up Towns’ first career round tripper.
Jeff Sborz (1-0) picked up the win in relief allowing one run (unearned) on two hits with four strikeouts in 2.1 innings. Waddell, who made his collegiate debut, surrendered two runs (one earned) on five hits with a pair of walks and five punch outs in 4.2 innings. David Rosenberger closed out the final two frames giving up one run with two strikeouts.
Hoffman was tagged with the loss giving up four runs (all earned) on four hits with four walks and seven strikeouts over 4.2 frames. Tyler Bolton allowed four runs (all earned) in 1.2 innings, while Dylan Dickens (0.1 IP) and Hayden White (0.1) surrendered two and four runs in their outings. Brett Mabry made his Pirate debut tossing two scoreless innings with a punch out to close the game.
ECU got on the board in the bottom of the first when Jay Cannon scored on a two-out error off the bat of Nick Thompson, pulling the Pirates within three, 4-1. Cannon singled to left field and steam-rolled home when Thompson sent a short pop fly to left center where Brandon Downs was unable to make the play.
The Pirates pulled within two, 4-2, in the fifth thanks to an RBI double by Chase McDonald that pushed across Drew Reynolds. With one out in the stanza, Reynolds singled to left, Cannon walked Thompson reached on a fielders choice putting runners on the corners for the Greenville native. Following an UVA pitching change, McDonald sent a rope down the left field line off Sborz for his second base hit of the contest. With runners on second and third, Sborz got pinch hitter Dylan Brown to line out to third to end the Pirates threat.
An RBI double by Jared King and a RBI single off the bat of Downes extended the Hoos lead to four, 6-2 in the top of the sixth.
Once again ECU cut into the lead scoring in the bottom of the sixth making it a three-run contest, 6-3. Bryan Bass singled down the left field line and advanced to third on the second error of the game by the Cavaliers. Fisher, the leftfielder, tried to get Bass out at first on a backdoor throw on the play, but air-mailed the throw into the UVA dugout down the first base line. True freshman Travis Watkins hit a high dribbler to second base forcing a quick throw by Reed Gragnani that pulled King off of first base allowing Watkins to reach base and Bass to score.
But in the top half of the seventh, UVA exploded for eight runs which was highlighted by Towns second grand-daddy of the afternoon pushing the score to 14-3. Cogswell had an RBI single to right, which was followed by a Fisher’s second RBI of the game when he was plunked with the bases loaded. Downes doubled down the left field line scoring a pair and Towns capped off the scoring for UVA with a shot to right center.
Jack Reinheimer scored the Pirates fourth and final run of the game blasting a solo homer, the third of his career, off the light poll in left field in the bottom of the eighth.
The Pirates and Cavaliers will be back in action at 10 a.m. (EST) Saturday morning for game-two of the series. The contest, which was originally scheduled for 2 p.m,, was moved up due to potential inclement weather later in the day.
* Attendance: 3,511
* Junior Chase McDonald extended his current hit streak to 10 games dating back to May 15th of last year against High Point … He also has five-straight games with multiple hits, which dates back to the UAB game in the 2012 C-USA Tournament on May 25.
* Junior Jack Reinheimer was 2-for-4 with a home run and extended his streak of reaching base to 21-straight games … His home run in the eighth inning was the third of his career and marked the second-straight season he homered on opening day – blasted first career home run on the first pitch against Milwaukee in 2012 … Extended his consecutive games started streak to 112.
*Sophomore Jeff Hoffman made his first opening day start and 11th of his career Friday … He struck out seven batters for the fourth time in his career – fanned a career-best 10 against Elon on April 10, 2012.
* The Pirates started two true freshman against the Hoos … Garrett Brooks got the nod in center going 1-for-5 and recording five put outs … Travis Watkins was part of the starting battery alongside Hoffman and drove in his first collegiate run in the sixth inning.
* ECU dropped their sixth game in the last eight contests against UVA dating back to the 2010 season.