GREENVILLE, N.C. — Ashley Graeter drove in a pair of runs and a trio of Southern Miss pitchers limited East Carolina to a solo run as the Golden Eagles captured a 3-1 Conference USA series-opening victory at Clark-LeClair Stadium here Friday evening.
The Golden Eagles (31-10 overall, 10-3 C-USA) won their fifth consecutive league contest as Graeter and Jared Bales each collected two of the Golden Eagles eight hits. Geoffrey Thomas, Chase Horn and Collin Cargill scattered 10 hits in the contest. ECU fell to 27-15, 8-8.
Graeter put Southern Miss on the board by scoring the game’s first run in the third. The junior from Poplarville, who has started in the last nine games at shortstop for B.A. Vollmuth who sustained a hip flexor injury against Ole Miss (4/12), put down a bunt that ECU third baseman John Wooten overthrew first base to give USM a runner at second with no outs.
After a sacrifice bunt by Kameron Brunty, Tyler Koelling drove in his team-leading 40th run with a single up the middle.
After Zach Wright tied the score for ECU in the fifth on a RBI single, the Golden Eagles retook the lead for good in the seventh. After Adam Doleac was hit by a pitch, Jared Bales registered a single before Graeter singled up the middle to give USM the 2-1 advantage.
Graeter then completed the scoring with a RBI single in the ninth.
Thomas, who has recorded a decision in all 11 starts, improved to 9-2 as he gave up a run on seven hits with three walks and a strikeout over 6 1/3. After he got in trouble in the seventh with a walk and a hit batsman, Horn came in to the game to notch a strikeout and an infield pop out to end the frame.
One frame later, Horn gave up consecutive singles after getting a groundout. The Golden Eagles went to closer Collin Cargill and he got Chris Gosik to hit into a double play to end the threat.
Cargill then allowed a leadoff single in the ninth, before getting a fielder’s choice for an out and then a double play to end the contest. The twin killing was the Golden Eagles’ nation-leading 58th of the season as Cargill compiled his eighth save of the year.
Game two of the series takes place at 2 p.m. CT, Saturday, with the series finale set for 10 a.m. CT, Sunday.