East Carolina on-deck batter Eric Tyler (25) celebrates with Dwanya Williams-Sutton as he scores on teammate TJ Riles’ two-run home run in the top of the first inning of Wednesday’s game at Campbell. Williams-Sutton led off the game with a double but injured his thumb sliding into second base and came out for precautionary measures as the Pirates rolled to a 10-0 victory.
Walter Powell | 247Sports.com
Raleigh Leesville Road High center Peyton Winstead, at a practice last season, recently offered a verbal commitment to East Carolina. He is a rising senior.
Scooter Waller | 247Sports.com
By Stephen Igoe
Special to the Times
Opening weekend didn’t go as planned for East Carolina’s baseball team, but the Pirates delivered on Wednesday when it counted for their first victory of the season.
After getting swept at Ole Miss in a showdown of two preseason top 10 teams, No. 11 ECU responded with authority against Campbell in front of a record crowd of 1,563 at Jim Perry Stadium with a 10-0 triumph to close out a four-game road swing to begin the season.
The Pirates gave away a pair of late leads at Ole Miss and lost all three games by a combined four runs, so it wasn’t a surprise they bounced back with some anger at Campbell.
“The thing that has impressed me about this team,” head coach Cliff Godwin said, “is the dugout intent and the way we go about our business. Tonight, we’re up 10 runs and guys could not be paying attention, but they’re all standing and pulling for the guys in there. This team is a pretty close-knit group and we’re going to special. I’ve got a good feeling about it.”
ECU (1-3) received an outstanding effort from sophomore Chris Holba, who worked six shutout innings in the second start of his career to earn the win. Used primarily out of the bullpen last season, Holba struck out four and allowed only two hits.
TJ Riles, a junior college transfer getting the start in center field, delivered a game-high four RBIs to pace ECU’s offense.
Riles smacked a two-run home run two batters into the night to give the Pirates a 2-0 edge before later adding a two-RBI single to make it 5-0 in the top of the sixth.
The Pirates added on with four runs in the seventh to secure the win over the Camels (2-2).
“Today was great,” Riles said. “We lived in the present and didn’t let the Ole Miss series and the past defeat us. We just kept pushing and lived in the present today.”
Sophomore outfielder Dwanya Williams-Sutton, a Greenfield School graduate, led off the game with a double and scored on Riles’ homer. That would be it for Williams-Sutton, who jammed his thumb sliding into second and left for precautionary reasons. He will be evaluated Thursday but the injury did not appear to be serious.
East Carolina opens its home schedule with a three-game series beginning on Friday against La Salle inside Clark-LeClair Stadium at 4 p.m.
FOOTBALL COACHING STAFF UPDATE
East Carolina is close to filling out its football coaching staff under second-year head coach Scottie Montgomery, though the Pirates hit an unfortunate snag earlier this week while attempting to make their final hire.
Former Purdue interim head coach Gerad Parker was set to join ECU’s staff later this week, sources said. But Parker, who was reportedly attending a going away party Monday night in Indiana was pulled over by police on his way home and charged with Operating a Vehicle Impaired (OVI) early Tuesday morning.
An ECU spokesperson confirmed on Wednesday night Parker will no longer be hired by the Pirates.
Hired as Cincinnati’s running backs coach earlier this offseason, Parker resigned from the position last Friday and was expected to join ECU’s staff later this week, though he was never officially hired by the university.
The 36-year-old released a lengthy statement on Twitter early Wednesday morning, but later deleted it.
He was expected to fill the post of wide receivers coach Phil McGeoghan, who left for the Buffalo Bills receivers job earlier this offseason after one year with Montgomery’s staff.
ECU did make an official hiring earlier this week, bringing back former Pirate standout Jason Nichols as the team’s running backs coach.
Nichols replaces Antonio King, who left his head coaching vacancy at Durham Hillside last season to join Montgomery’s staff, only to step down from ECU earlier this offseason.
A record-breaking wide receiver at ECU from 1994-97, Nichols caught 152 passes over his career. He spent last season as Western Carolina’s running backs coach.
Nichols previously served as an assistant coach at Appalachian State, Louisiana-Monroe, Kent State and Toledo.
“Not only does Jason bring a wealth of coaching experience to East Carolina, he knows first-hand of the special bond that exists between Pirate Nation and our program,” Montgomery said in a statement. “To have the opportunity to impact young men on the same campus and playing field where he earned his degree and competed is immeasurable.”
PIRATES ADD TO 2018 CLASS
East Carolina added to its 2018 recruiting class over the weekend, picking up a verbal commitment from Leesville Road High School center Peyton Winstead.
The 6-foot-3, 290-pounder committed during an unofficial visit to campus. He also had an offer from Charlotte and interest from Virginia Tech, N.C. State and Duke.
The Raleigh native comes from a Pirate family, as his father, Bob Winstead, played his college football at ECU. His mother was also a cheerleader with the Pirates.
Winstead is the second early commitment of the 2018 class, joining three-star quarterback Holton Ahlers, who’s rated the top quarterback in North Carolina by 247Sports.
Stephen Igoe is the publisher of the East Carolina 247Sports website Hoist The Colours. Check out more of his work at eastcarolina.247sports.com.