No. 8 ECU completes doubleheader sweep at Cincinnati
Eighth-ranked ECU won its sixth American Athletic Conference series following a road doubleheader sweep at Cincinnati (9-4, 6-3) Friday at Marge Schott Stadium. With the win, the Pirates improve to 35-11 overall and 15-2 in AAC play while the Bearcats drop to 22-24 and 11-9. The twin-bill sweep is the fifth for the Pirates this season as they move to 10-2 in doubleheader contests in 2019.
After winning the first contest, ECU earned win No. 15 in league play 6-3 Friday night. The Pirates jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the second inning thanks to Bryant Packard’s bases-clearing double with two outs. Turner Brown was hit by a pitch with one out and Seth Caddell followed with a single through the left side. After David Orndorff got Brady Lloyd swinging for the second out, Ryder Giles’ walk loaded the bases for Packard, who laced his 17th two-base hit of the season.
Jake Kuchmaner (5-1) picked up the win after allowing three runs (all earned) on six hits with four walks and a pair of strikeouts in 5.2 innings. Evan Voliva notched his fourth save of the season working one-third of an inning where he came in with runners on the corners and two away. Sam Lanier tossed a clean inning of relief before passing the ball over to Gavin Williams in the seventh. Williams worked two scoreless frames where he allowed a pair of hits with one walk and two strikeouts.
Orndorff (3-2) took the loss after surrendering six runs (all earned) on six hits with two walks and seven punch outs in six full innings. AJ Kullman (2.0 IP, 3 Hs, 1 BB, 2 Ks) and Korren Thompson (1.0 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 K) combined for three scoreless frames out of the bullpen for the Bearcats.
Thomas Francisco’s sac fly on the third extended the Pirates lead to four, 4-0. Spencer Brickhouse doubled to right-center to start the frame and took third on Alec Burleson’s fly ball to center. Francisco lifted a 2-2 offering from Orndorff to deep center allowing Brickhouse to stroll home.
Cincinnati pulled within one, 4-3, after scoring three runs in the fourth stanza. Joey Wiemer singled to get things going and moved to second on Griffin Merritt’s walk. Jace Mercer followed with a two-RBI double to right-center clearing the bases and two batters later, Mason DeAnna’s sac fly to right field scored Mercer.
But ECU responded with a pair of runs in the fifth pushing its lead to 6-3. With one away and Brickhouse standing on first, a failed back pick by DeAnna moved Brickhouse to second and Burleson followed with a double to right-center plating Brickhouse. Burleson stole third to move 90-feet away from home and Francisco capped the scoring when he grounded out to second allowing Burleson to touch home.
The Pirates tallied 10 hits in the nightcap and improved to 22-1 when reaching double-digit base knocks in a contest. Seven different players registered a hit with Brickhouse, Burleson and Lloyd each collecting two. Packard drove in three runs, while Francisco plated a pair. ECU also flashed some leather defensively as it got diving grabs by Lane Hoover in center and Lloyd at second in the second frame, as well as a run-saving grab by Burleson in right field which came in the eighth.
Wiemer led the Bearcats with his two-hit performance, while Mercer drove in two of Cincinnati’s three runs.
ECU wasted little time in getting on the scoreboard as it plated four runs in the top of the first inning on four hits for an early 4-0 lead and never looked back. Packard walked and took third on Brickhouse’s one-out double. Brown followed with a single to left pushing across Packard and Burleson’s RBI bunt single scored Brickhouse. Two batters later, Francisco doubled to right field scoring Burleson and Jake Washer.
Jake Agnos (7-2) earned the win tossing six shutout frames where he allowed three hits, walked three and struck out eight. With the six scoreless frames, the lefty pushed his consecutive shutout streak to 19.1 innings. Zach Barnes earned his first save of the season working three innings of relief where he was touched for four runs (three earned) on six hits with a walk and one strikeout.
Evan Shaver (2-6) took the loss surrendering seven runs (all earned) on six hits with four walks and two strikeouts in 2.1 innings. Chase Stewart was the first Bearcat out of the bullpen and he gave up two runs (one earned) on two hits with one punch out in four innings. Also pitching in relief for Cincinnati were Jackson Murphy (1.2 IP, 1 K) and Brennan Dolwick (1.0 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 K).
The Pirates pushed their lead to seven, 7-0, scoring three times in the third stanza. Brown got things going when he drew an opening frame walk and took second on a wild pitch. Burleson followed with an RBI double to left field for the first run of the frame. Two batters later Hoover singled back up the middle pushing across Burleson and Packard’s sac fly to center allowed Hoover to cross home.
Washer’s two-RBI double down the left field line added to ECU’s lead making it a 9-0 game in the seventh. Brickhouse singled to right field and moved to third when Burleson reached on a fielding error at second by Mercer. Washer cleared the bases with his eighth double of the season.
Cincinnati plated a pair of runs in both the eighth and ninth innings, which capped the scoring at 9-4. JP Bitzenhofer’s two-RBI single accounted for both runs in the eighth, while Cole Murphy’s RBI double and an ECU error pushed across the last two runs.
The trio of Brickhouse, Burleson and Washer each tallied two hits, while Burleson, Francisco and Washer plated a pair. Burleson led the club with three runs scored and Brickhouse crossed home twice.
ECU and Cincinnati will close out the three-game series on Sunday, May 5 with a 1 p.m. (ET) scheduled first pitch.