Pirates plunder Seahawks in NCAA regional opener, 16-7

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GREENVILLE — It wasn’t a shutdown pitching performance for the East Carolina baseball team in the opening round of the Greenville Regional on Friday night, but the relentless offense of the Pirates was more than enough to carry the day nonetheless.

ECU scored in seven of eight innings at the plate and pounded out 17 hits en route to a 16-7 victory over No. 4 seed UNC Wilmington inside Clark-LeClair Stadium.

The Pirates, making their 29th appearance in an NCAA regional, improved to 44-16 and will face off with No. 2 seed South Carolina at 5 p.m. Saturday. UNCW, the Colonial Athletic Association tournament champion, dropped to 37-22 and opposes No. 3 Ohio State in a noon elimination game, also on Saturday.

After ECU, the American Athletic Conference tournament champions, won a pair of tight games from UNCW during midweek games in the regular season, both sets of bats came to life against top-line pitching. The Pirates roughed up Seahawk starter Alex Royalty for seven hits over two innings, with Royalty giving up eight runs in that span. Connor Litton’s two-run homer to right field highlighted the ECU spree in the bottom of the first. In the second, Turner Brown led off with a double and was driven in by Greenfield School product Dwanya Williams-Sutton’s groundout. 

UNCW briefly cut the margin to 5-3 in the third on Ryan Jeffers’ two-run single, only to see the Pirates load the bases against Royalty in the third with no one out.

A wild pitch scored Brady Lloyd, and consecutive sacrifice flies by Brown and Alec Burleson made it 8-3.

Holba lasted 4 1/3 innings for ECU in his start, allowing eight hits and six earned runs. He departed in favor of Ryan Ross after giving up a three-run homer to Kep Brown in the fifth. Ross entered and tossed 2 2/3 innings of one-hit relief.

Litton was 3 for 4 with 4 RBIs. Every Pirate in the starting lineup had at least one run batted in with the exception of Bryant Packard, who was 3 for 4 with a pair of runs scored.

Kep Brown was 3 for 4 with a trio of RBIs for UNCW.

Hunt High product Bryson Worrell pinch hit in the eighth for the Pirates and steered an RBI double into right field.