Ben Fultz’ blasted his first career grand slam and Chase McDonald homered in his second-straight game lifting East Carolina (30-24, 14-10) to a 6-5 six inning win over UCF (29-27, 13-11) Saturday afternoon at Lewis Field inside Clark-LeClair Stadium.
The Pirates posted their sixth consecutive Conference USA series win and locked up the third seed in the upcoming 2013 C-USA Championships, which begins next week at Reckling Park in Houston, Texas.
Heading into the bottom of the second inning with a 2-0 lead, Fultz extended ECU’s lead to six, 6-0, in the second frame when he belted his third home run of the season. After a 2-hour and 54-minute weather delay, Chris Gosik, Jack Reinheimer and McDonald all drew walks setting up Fultz’ grand slam, which went over the trees in right field and landed on the Cliff Moore Football Practice Facility.
Jake Harris (3-3) picked up the win in relief tossing two scoreless frames where he allowed one hits and struck out two. Starter Ryan Williams allowed five runs (all earned) on nine hits in four frames, while Andy Smithmyer faced three batters giving up a hit and walking a batter before handing the ball off to Harris.
Brian Adkins (4-7) took the loss giving up a pair of runs (both earned) on four hits in one inning of work before the game was halted due to rain and lightning. When play resumed, Erik Skoglund took the hill recording one out and allowing two runs (both earned) on a pair of walks. UCF used three more pitchers in Zac Favre (0.2 IP, 2 Rs), Harrison Hukari (2.2 IP, 0 Rs) and Spencer Davis (0.1 IP) to close out the contest.
McDonald staked ECU to an early 2-0 lead thanks to a two-run homer to left field in the bottom of the first inning. Reinheimer singled through the left side with one out and came around to score on McDonald’s league-leading 11th round tripper of the season.
UCF got on the board in the third stanza pushing across three runs and cutting the lead to 6-3. Ryan Breen led off with an opposite field solo homer, his first of the year. Erik Hempe followed with a double to right center and two batters later Chris Taladay put runners on the corners with a single to center. Bret Gordon followed with an RBI single to left plating Hempe and Taladay, who scored on a throwing error.
The Knights pulled within one, 6-5, on three hits in the fifth frame. Hempe hit his eighth homer of the season to left field to start the inning. James Vasquez followed with a double down the left field line before ECU went to the bullpen to bring in Smithmyer. Taladay reached when he was hit by a pitch and Gordon loaded the bases with a single to right.
ECU went to the bullpen for the second time in the inning, this time bringing in Harris. With no outs, the left-hander retired Erik Barber (pop out), Bo Decker (strikeout) and Austin Johnston (strikeout) in order to end the Knights threat.
The Knights out hit the Pirates on the afternoon 11 to nine with Hempe recording a game-high four base knocks, while Gordon and Taladay added a pair of hits.
Fultz led the Pirates with a 3-for-3 performance at the dish and collected a career-high four RBI. Thompson added a pair of hits to go along with hits from Bass, Gosik, McDonald and Reinheimer. Zach Houchins saw his 13-game hit streak come to and end after a 0-for-3 day that included a walk.
The Pirates will be back in action next week when they participate in the C-USA Championships.