GREENVILLE, N.C. – Chase McDonald’s seventh home run of the season highlighted East Carolina’s four-run fourth inning as the Pirates took game one of the three-game Conference USA series 6-3 over Southern Miss Friday night at Lewis Field inside Clark-LeClair Stadium. With the win the Pirates picked up their ninth win in the last 11 games and moved into a tie for third place in the league standings with Rice.
Trailing 3-0 in the fourth, ECU (25-21, 9-7) scored four runs to take a 4-3 lead and never looked back. Zach Houchins got things going with a leadoff single to left field before McDonald laced a two-run shot down the left field line pulling the Pirates within one, 3-2.
ECU continued the inning scoring two more runs to take its first lead of the contest. Jay Cannon dropped down a bunt single to third and Dylan Brown followed with a double to right field putting runners on second and third. Travis Watkins loaded the bases with a walk for Bryan Bass, who lifted a fly ball to center plating Cannon. After Brown and Watkins moved into scoring position on a double steal, Jack Reinheimer reached on an infield single back to the Southern Miss starter Jake Drehoff scoring Brown to cap the frame.
Jeff Hoffman (5-5) picked up the win working a solid seven innings where he allowed three runs (all earned) on six hits with five walks and five punch-outs for his team-leading ninth quality start. Brett Mabry made his 12th relief appearance of the season tossing a scoreless eighth before Drew Reynolds closed the game with a scoreless ninth for his league leading 12th save.
Drehoff (2-5) took the loss for the Golden Eagles (24-20, 13-6) surrendering five runs (all earned) on nine hits with a pair of walks and one strikeout in four innings. Jay Myrick relieved Drehoff working 2.1 innings allowing a run (earned) on two hits with six walks. Sean Buchholz tossed a perfect 1.2 innings recording one strikeout.
The Golden Eagles stuck first scoring three runs in the fourth for an early 3-0 lead. Bradley Roney was hit by a Hoffman pitch to start the inning and took second when Blake Brown drew a walk. Tim Lynch moved both runners into scoring position with a sac bunt back to the mound before Chase Fowler loaded the bases with another walk. Dillon Day plated Southern Miss’ first run with a single and Austin Roussel extended the lead to 2-0 on a sac fly to left field.
Isaac Rodriguez would punch in another run in the fourth with a single through the right side scoring Fowler. But on the same play Southern Miss sent Day from second and Cannon fired a strike home to Watkins ending the inning.
ECU would extend its lead in the fifth to 6-3 thanks to an RBI double by Ben Fultz and a RBI sac fly by Watkins. Houchins, who posted a game-high three hits, led off with a double down the left field line. After a USM pitching change, McDonald walk and Fultz doubled down the right field line plating Houchins and putting runners on first and second with no outs. Two batters later Brown loaded the bases with another Myrick walk and Watkins lifted a 1-0 offering to deep center pushing across McDonald.
From the fifth inning on, the Golden Eagles managed just one hit and the Pirates turned a double plays in the eighth and ninth innings after issuing leadoff walks.
ECU recorded double-digit hits for the fifth straight game collecting 11 on the night to Southern Miss’ six. To go along with Houchins’ three base knocks, Fultz added a pair of hits and Reynolds extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a 2-for-5 performance at the plate.
The two teams will be back in action on Saturday, May 4 when they play game two of the weekend series. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. (ET).