Former JH Rose star Chase McDonald collected a season-high three hits, drove in three and scored the game-winning run, while Jeff Hoffman recorded seven strikeouts helping East Carolina (18-20, 4-6) to a 5-4 Conference USA opening series win over UAB (16-22, 3-7) Friday night at Young Memorial Field.
Zach Houchins and McDonald staked ECU to an early 2-0 lead in the first and the Pirates never looked back. Jack Reinheimer doubled to right center with one out in the frame, which was followed by a double to right center by Houchins plating Reinheimer. McDonald followed with an RBI single up the middle scoring Houchins for his team leading 24th RBI.
Hoffman (4-4) picked up his first win in league play after allowing three runs (all earned) on seven hits in eight full frames. For Hoffman it was his fourth straight game where he completed at least eight innings in a start. Drew Reynolds notched his team leading seventh save and the 17th of his career, which moved him into sole possession of third place on the school’s all-time list. The right-hander worked one inning allowing one run (earned) on one hits with a walk and a pair of strikeouts.
Tanner Bryant (2-5) suffered the loss after giving up all five Pirate runs (all earned) on seven hits with seven punch outs in 6.2 innings. Jacob German tossed 2.1 scoreless innings in relief with two strikeouts.
McDonald’s two-RBI double in the third gave the Pirates a 4-0. Reynolds singled up the middle then moved to second on Houchins’ second hit of the night. McDonald cleared the bases with a laser down the left field line, his fifth two-base hit of the year.
UAB finally got on the board in the fourth scoring a pair of runs and cutting ECU’s lead to 4-2. Ivan De Jesus walked with one out and took second on Harry Clark’s single to left center. After Tyler Mims grounded out to McDonald at first, which moved both runners into scoring position, De Jesus scored the Blazer’s first run on a Hoffman wild pitch. Jeff Schalk’s RBI single through the right side plated Clark to cap the inning.
John Frost’s RBI double in the fifth pulled UAB within one, 4-3. Ryan Prinzing singled through the left side with one out and took second on a wild pitch before coming home on Frost’s lone hit in the contest extending his current hit streak t0 18 games.
Travis Watkins’ sac fly RBI in the top of the sixth gave the Pirates an insurance run and extended the lead to 5-3. McDonald collected his third hit of the night with an infield single then took second on Cannon’s walk. Dylan Brown’s sac bunt back to the Bryant moved McDonald and Cannon up 90 feet and Watkins lifted first pitch offering from Bryant deep enough to center field scoring McDonald for the game-winning run.
UAB made things interesting in the bottom of the ninth scoring a run Bryant’s single making it a one-run game, 5-4. After Reynolds entered the game, Clark walked to start the frame and Schalk was hit by a pitch with one out putting runners on first and second. Bryant delivered a single through the right side plating Adam Lau, who pinch ran for Clark. Reynolds retired Griffin Gum via strikeout (swinging) and got Prinzing to ground out to Bryan Bass at second to end the inning. For Reynolds it was his seventh save in eight opportunities this year.
ECU and UAB will be back on the field Saturday, Apr. 20 when the two teams play game two of the three game series at 3 p.m. (ET).