Pinch runner Garrett Brooks raced home with the winning run on a throwing error in the bottom of the ninth inning as East Carolina defeated James Madison 6-5 in the season opener for both squads on Friday afternoon at Clark-LeClair Stadium.
Senior third baseman Ty McFarland (Bridgewater, Va./Turner Ashby) homered on the second pitch of the new season and went 3-for-5 with two RBIs for the Dukes. Transfer shortstop Kyle Weston (Penn Laird, Va./Spotswood) had a pair of hits in the loss.
Redshirt sophomore Aaron Hoover (Centreville, Va./Westfield) took the loss for Madison with the unearned run, though he tossed three innings without allowing an earned run and struck out three. Sophomore starter Mark Gunst (Fairfax, Va./Paul VI) allowed four runs on four hits with three strikeouts in five innings as the starter.
Ryan Williams earned the win for the Pirates, allowing an unearned run in 2 1/3 innings of relief. Starter Jeff Hoffman allowed four runs, three earned, on four hits with six strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.
Trailing 5-3 after six innings thanks to a four-run sixth for ECU, the Dukes rallied to tie the game with a run each in the seventh and eighth innings. Following a single and steal by Weston in the seventh, McFarland hit a two-out single up the middle to plate the run. In the eighth, center fielder Kevin Husum’s (Panama City, Fla./Bay) lofted a sacrifice fly to center to knot the score at 5-5.
JMU put two on with two outs in the ninth but couldn’t push across the go-ahead run. A leadoff single got ECU started in the ninth and a bunt pushed Brooks to second. A groundout and a hit batter but runners on first and second with two outs. Third baseman Zach Houchins reached on McFarland’s throwing error to allow the winning run to score.
Madison, which lost its opener for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons, started on the right foot when McFarland blasted a one-ball, no-strikes pitch over the right field fence as the first batter in the first game of the season.
After ECU tied the score on a home run by left fielder Dylan Brown in the second, the Dukes reclaimed the lead in the fourth when Tyler Gregory’s (Dothan, Ala./Houston Academy) groundout scored senior Conner Brown (Richmond, Va./Godwin). Redshirt senior Matt Tenaglia (Doylestown, Pa./Central Bucks East) scored on a passed ball.
The Pirates big four-spot came in the sixth when the first two batters reached via singles and right fielder Ian Townsend lofted a three-run homer to right field for the 4-3 lead. An RBI single by catcher Travis Watkins made it 5-3.
JMU and ECU will contest game two of the three-game set on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m.