ECU's pitchers have carried the team throughout much of the young season, but David Lucroy (0-3) has yet to settle in on the mound. He was credited with the loss after allowing four runs (all earned) on seven hits in three innings pitched. His earned run average in his four appearances is 14.04.
"David, one of the things he didn't do last year was he didn't give up a lot of hits," said head coach Billy Godwin. "He punched a lot of guys out. He just is not doing either right now. You got to understand he's frustrated. We're working with him as coaches. We've just got to keep encouraging him. We've got to keep staying with the process, putting him out there, and, sooner or later, it will click."
UNC-G jumped to an early 2-0 lead in the second inning. Tyler Long's RBI single plated Nick Chapman and Zac MacAneney followed up with a sac-bunt that allowed Jake Hall to score. By the end of that frame, the Spartans had already notched five hits.
The Spartans extended their lead to 4-0 two innings later, which prompted Nick Durazo taking the mound for Lucroy. Pitching continued to cost ECU when Tyler Long scored on a wild pitch by Durazo, which also allowed MacAneney to advance to third. MacAneney scored shortly thereafter via a sac-fly by Sean Guite.
"We're a little down in the catching," said Godwin. "[Luke] Lowery wasn't here today and [Eric] Tyler is doing all he can. He's doing a great job. We're trying to make quality pitches at times and get swings and misses. Sometimes the ball gets away from you, so that's it."
"Fundamentally, we made no errors," added Godwin. "It seems like every time we put a guy on, whether it's a walk or how many runs scored off walks…and early in the game they forced pressure. First and second, bases loaded, we squeezed out of that jam. I thought we did a good job with some of that, but you can't put the first two guys on in bunting situation. They did a good job with situational hitting."
The Pirates rallied back from three-run deficits to make it a one-run game twice. They trimmed UNC-G's lead to 4-3 in the fifth. After the Spartans pulled ahead again, ECU made it 6-5 in the bottom of the eighth.
The Pirates failed to convert once they got runners on base, though. They left 17 runners stranded, which ultimately cost them the one-run game.
"We did a good job of getting on, but we're not doing a good job getting across the plate right now," said Godwin. "We're trying to be relaxed and encouraging to them. You just got to keep encouraging them…I can remember struggling with the same thing last year. We were down at UAB in a key situation and [Drew] Reynolds gets a big two-out double that clears the bases. After that, we went on a roll. It needs to happen sooner than later."
In addition to Lowery, offensive powerhouse Ian Townsend was also out. Even having to find offense elsewhere, ECU began to crawl back into the game in the bottom of the fourth inning. Kirk Morgan's sac-fly with the bases loaded brought in Reid Love to give the Pirates their first run of the game.
|Ben Fultz against Western Kentucky.|
Ben Fultz, who had five hits in 40 trips to the plate prior to Tuesday's game, helped by supplying offense for the Pirates. He finished the game 2-for-4 with two runs. His second hit was in ECU's two-run fifth inning that cut the Spartans' lead to 4-3. Fultz's base hit put Houchins in position for Love's RBI single. Love and Fultz continued to be aggressive by stealing second and third in a two-out situation.
"It's taking it step-by-step," said Fultz. "Baseball is a crazy game. If you succeed three out of 10 times, you're considered a Hall of Famer. You just got to take your time with it and realize what you have. Sometimes, it's just not going to go your way. Staying in that mindset where you have confidence is always key. They're falling now, but I've still got a lot to work on so I'm excited."
After two scoreless innings, ECU showed signs of life with two runs in the bottom of the eighth. It wasn't enough to make the comeback, though, as the Spartans clung to their one-run lead in the ninth.
The Diamond Bucs get right back to business tomorrow against another in-state rival. They play Wake Forrest in Wilson at 6 p.m.