By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
East Carolina came in on a roll and kept rolling in the first game of its weekend series with Marshall.
The Pirates banged out 15 hits — six players had two each — and Jeff Hoffman pitched eight solid innings in a 9-1 win Friday at Beckley’s Linda K. Epling Stadium.
The first-ever Conference USA game at the stadium was close for seven innings before the Pirates blew it open with four runs in the eighth. All four runs were scored with two out, three of them on on a deep home run to left by Chase McDonald.
ECU (27-22, 11-8 C-USA) has won four straight series and is off to a good start in this, an important series for the Thundering Herd, which went in leading UAB by one game for the eighth and final spot in the conference tournament.
“We’re playing well,” ECU coach Billy Godwin said. “I’ve been in this game long enough to know that it can turn, but (we will) just enjoy it while we’re playing well. Our guys are locked in and playing well and seeing the ball well and playing good defense. We don’t really talk about it. We just come out the next day and hope we show up.”
That wasn’t a problem this time around. ECU had at least one baserunner in every inning and stranded 13 in addition to the nine who scored.
Jack Reinheimer had a pair of doubles, Drew Reynolds extended his hit streak to 14 games and McDonald picked up where he left off last week when he was named the league’s hitter of the week. The junior first baseman was 2-for-3 and drove in four runs.
His home run was his league-leading ninth of the season.
“We’ve really done well here lately,” McDonald said. “We’ve had a lot of 10-plus-hit games the last couple of weekends. It’s good to have and we really enjoy it. It’s a lot of fun when that happens.”
Marshall (18-30, 5-14) successfully worked the pitch count of Hoffman, who threw 125 pitches over eight innings. But the Herd only managed seven hits — all singles — and Hoffman walked just two batters.
Aaron Bossi’s RBI single in the second tied the game.
“We let that game get out of hand,” Marshall coach Jeff Waggoner said. “We had an opportunity in the third inning, (Hoffman) was at 75 pitches. We didn’t have the same quality at-bats in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings on that could have got his count up. It might have been a different ballgame if he’s out of the game by the fifth or sixth inning.”
Marshall’s biggest threat came in the seventh when Matt Kirkwood, Sergio Leon and Andrew Dundon singled to load the bases with two out. But Hoffman struck out Gray Stafford to end the inning.
“Credit to him,” Waggoner said. “He’s one of the best pitchers in the country.”
Dundon’s hit was the 100th of the sophomore’s career.
Hoffman (6-5) struck out seven and walked two in the quality start, which has become a trend for his outings.
“He’s just been our workhorse,” Godwin said. “I can’t remember the last one where he didn’t get us at least into the seventh. That was good, especially on a Friday on a conference weekend. You don’t have to dig deep into your bullpen.”
Jake Harris retired the side on five pitches in the ninth to end it.
Marshall, on the other hand, used three relievers in the sixth. Starter Wayland Moore (2-3) was chased after 5 1/3, and was charged with two runs when Kolin Stanley gave up a two-run double to Jake Reinheimer.
It was the only batter Stanley faced. Alex Thackston replaced Stanley and he, too, pitched to one batter.
Moore allowed seven hits and four earned runs and issued five of eight walks by Marshall pitchers.
“You can’t beat anybody with eight walks,” Waggoner said.
The Pirates scored another two-out run in the ninth — their sixth of the game — on a double by Reynolds. He now has nine straight multi-hit games and has raised his average to .326.
Eric Escobedo was 2-for-4 for the Herd.
The second game of the series is set for 7 p.m. today. Marshall ace Aaron Blair (5-4, 2.36 earned run average) will start against the Pirates’ David Lucroy (4-1, 2.01).
It will be Senior Night for the Herd. Seniors Isaac Ballou, Alfredo Brito, Nathan Gomez, Matt Hummel, Matt Kirkwood, Terrence Moore, Wayland Moore and Stafford will be honored before the game.
— E-mail: gfauber@
ECU: 101 002 041 — 9 15 0
MU: 010 000 000 — 1 7 0
ECU: Jeff Hoffman, Jake Harris (9) and Luke Lowery, Sam King (9), MU: Wayland Moore, Kolin Stanley (6), Alex Thackston (6), Chase Boster (6), Zach Shockley (8), Terrence Moore (9) and Matt Kirkwood, David Diaz-Fernandez (9). WP — Hoffman. LP — W. Moore. Hitting — ECU: Bryan Bass 2-5, Jack Reinheimer 2-4 (2 2b, 2 rbi, 3 runs), Drew Reynolds 2-5 (2b, rbi), Zach Houchins 2-5 (2b, 2 rbi), Chase McDonald 2-3 (hr, rbi), Ben Fultz 1-5 (2b), Lowery 2-4, Jay Cannon 1-4, Dylan Brown 1-5, MU: Andrew Dundon 1-3, Isaac Ballou 1-4, Eric Escobedo 2-4, Aaron Bossi 1-4 (rbi), Kirkwood 1-2, Sergio Leon 1-3.
Records: ECU: 27-22, 11-8; MU: 18-30, 5-14.