Bryant Packard went 3 for 4 with four RBI and Travis Watkins knocked his third grand slam of the season in ECU’s 15-8 game one AAC victory over Tulane Friday night.
Evan Kruczynski went five and two-thirds innings to improve to 2-2 on the season. He gave up seven runs including a pair of homers on eight hits while striking out three for ECU(23-20/3-10 AAC). Corey Merrill fell to 6-3 with the loss for Tulane.
“Kruz is on a day short of rest and he definitely wasn’t as sharp as he was last week, but the thing I though hurt him was just those couple of long innings that we had where we scored six and four runs,” said ECU head coach Cliff Godwin, “When you’re sitting over there, that’s almost an inning instead of a shorter period of time. I know he likes the run support, but I really didn’t think he was sharp after those long innings.”
Godwin was encouraged by the Friday night victory to open a three-game set against the Green Wave.
“Tulane is one of the best offensive teams in the league if not the best. I knew it was going to be a dog fight. We know they’ve been playing well. I thought our guys had a lot of tough at-bats against one of the best pitchers in the league and a savvy veteran. If you have an approach like that and you really sell out to it sometimes you can have some good fortune,” Godwin said.
Tulane(21-22/8-5 AAC) got on the scoreboard early when a Hunter Williams grounder brought Grant Witherspoon home for a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
In the bottom have of the first, ECU wasted little time scoring a pair of runs on doubles from Bryant Packard and Turner Brown. That put the Pirates up 2-1. Dwanya Williams-Sutton’s deep drive was snagged over the center field wall by Grant Brown or the Pirates would have inflicted even more damage in the first.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the second inning, Eric Tyler singled to right field to score a pair of ECU runs. Then Bryant Packard’s base hit brought home another ECU run followed by a Turner Brown base hit that gave ECU a 6-1 lead.
Jake Willsey’s homer for Tulane over the left field fence off of Evan Kruczynski cut the lead to 6-2. Then Grant Brown got in the act with a home run to left field in the fourth that further ate into the ECU lead to make it 6-3.
But Packard struck again in the fourth inning when his single allowed Dusty Baker to score another ECU run to make it 7-3.
The Pirates loaded the bases again in the bottom of the fourth. Williams-Sutton walked to score a run. Then Travis Watkins hammered a grand slam to right field off of Tulane starter Corey Merrill that chased him out of the contest and blew the ballgame wide open at 12-3.
“That definitely gave us a cushion a little bit, but I tell you what a guy I was really so proud of was Bryant Packard. The guy hadn’t been starting consistently. For him to have that good an approach against a really good pitcher who is changing speeds and stuff, to have four RBI’s, I’m really proud of him.”
Watkins talked about the home run that really opened up the game for the Pirates.
“I think that was a big opportunity for us. We’ve been in that situation a couple of times this year where we haven’t come through and I think we really got after it at practice yesterday and that was one of our focuses, executing with runners in scoring position,” said Watkins, “Thankfully I was able to stay late on a cutter away and it left the yard.”
ECU’s 13th run of the game came on a Packard RBI that brought Dusty Baker across home plate again to extend the Pirate lead to a touchdown and a field goal at 13-3.
In the top of the sixth inning Tulane cut the lead to a touchdown when Kody Hoese’s two RBI single up the middle combined with a Paul Gozzo single to left off of Pirate starter Evan Kruczynski scored two more runs trim the Pirate lead to 13-7.
Travis Watkins scored again in the bottom of the sixth off a Bryce Harman grounder that made it 14-7, but Tulane wasn’t through either. Grant Brown’s grounder to short brought home Jarret DeHart to make it 14-8.
After Travis Watkins walked, he advanced to second and then third base on a pair of wild pitches, Watkins then scored on another wild pitch from Tulane reliever Ted Andrews in the eighth to extend the Pirate lead to 15-8.