Pirates Take Opening Weekend Series From Dukes, 4-2

GREENVILLE, N.C. – Senior Ryan Williams tossed four scoreless innings of relief, while freshman Kirk Morgan recorded two hits including the game-winner lifting East Carolina (2-1) to a 4-2 Opening Weekend series win over James Madison (1-2) Sunday afternoon at Lewis Field inside Clark-LeClair Stadium.

The Pirates, who notched their seventh-straight series win dating back to 2013, broke a one-all tie in the fourth frame scoring a pair of runs for a 3-1 advantage. With two outs in the inning, senior Dylan Brown and junior Reid Love roped consecutive singles to right field putting runners on the corners. Sophomore Travis Watkins followed by reaching on a fielding error by JMU shortstop Kyle Weston allowing Brown to score. Morgan stepped into the box delivering another single to right field that pushed Love across for the would-be game-winner.

Williams (2-0), who recorded both ECU wins in the series, scattered three hits over his four frames and struck out six in relief of starter Tyler Bolton. Bolton was solid in his outing surrendering a pair of runs (one earned) on four hits with a strikeout in four innings of work. Senior Drew Reynolds notched his first save of the season and 25th of his career with a perfect ninth, where he punched out two of three batters he faced.

Suffering the loss on the afternoon for JMU was right-hander Patrick Toohers (0-1), who gave up three runs (one earned) on six hits with four walks and a pair of strikeouts in four innings. The Dukes, who used four hurlers out of their bullpen, held the Pirates to just one run (earned) on three hits over the final four frames with three strikeouts.

For the third-straight contest, JMU jumped out to an early 1-0 lead scoring in the top of the first. Chad Carroll walked with one out, took second on Conner Brown’s ground out to third and came rumbling home when Matt Tenaglia reached on a fielding error by sophomore Luke Lowery at first base.

ECU answered in the bottom of the first knotting the game at one-all thanks to senior Zach Houchins’ RBI single. Sophomore Garrett Brooks drew an opening frame walk the stole the first of ECU’s five bases on the afternoon moving into scoring position. After Reynolds was retired on an infield ground out, Houchins took a 1-2 offering from Toohers and drove it back up the middle, easily plating Brooks.

The Dukes pulled within one, 3-2, in the fifth when Chad Carroll singled up the middle with two outs scoring Ky Parrott from second base. Parrott, who later left the game following a collision in the outfield with Conner Brown, started the stanza with a single through the right side and moved into scoring position on Nick Merullo’s single to left two batters later.

ECU added an insurance run in the eighth frame on senior Ben Fultz’ pinch hit sac fly that plated Dylan Brown, who led off the inning with a triple into the right field corner of the outfield, capping the scoring at 4-2.

Brown and Morgan led the Pirates nine-hit attack each picking up a pair of base knocks. Houchins, Lowery and Reynolds also recorded hits on the afternoon and finished the weekend series with at least one base hit in each of ECU’s three contests.

The Pirates will be back in action on Tuesday, Feb. 18 when they play host to Campbell at 4 p.m. (EST) before hitting the road later that weekend for a three-game series with Virginia (Feb. 21-23).