Primarily used as a middle reliever during two seasons at South Carolina, given the label of staff ace by head coach Paul O’Neil came with pressure and during a shaky first inning, it began to build.
“I always go out there expecting my best stuff, but I was a little too geared up with it being the opener,” Carter said. “I got more comfortable after that first inning.”
Carter settled down after early trouble and mowed down the Anderson (S.C.) lineup with relative ease, sitting down the last 11 batters he faced during the Braves’ 17-0 season-opening win. UNCP completed the doubleheader sweep in the nightcap, 7-1, behind another masterful pitching performance from sophomore lefty Jordan DeLoatch.
“Both starters were strong today and really hit their spots,” O’Neil said. “I think all of us were glad to stop practicing and just play baseball. They all looked a little nervous. Every player’s heart was beating 1,000 times a minute in that first inning of Game 1.”
It didn’t take long for the early butterflies to evaporate as the Braves provided Carter enough run support for his next three starts. UNCP pushed across three in the first and one in the second before a 10-hit, eight-run sixth blew it open. First-year starter Ben Schmucker homered, tripled and drove in five while Drew Alford and Ben Huffman each enjoyed four-hit outings.
The Braves pounded out 34 hits over the two-game stretch. For a lineup that included five new starters, O’Neil was pleased with the way his team swung the bat and waited on pitches.
“Anderson has a fundamental, well-coached club, but we were able to take advantage of some opportunities in key situations,” O’Neil said. “A couple of their mistakes led to big innings and it snowballed a little bit.”
While the Braves cooked at the plate, Carter stayed low in the zone throughout the afternoon, striking out four without a walk on 77 pitches over seven innings. Anderson had runners on first and second with one out in the first before the 6-foot-5 right hander retired consecutive batters to end the threat.
“We were on a pitch count, so I just wanted to work fast and pound the zone,” Carter.
DeLoatch found his groove in the third inning of the second game and tossed six scoreless frames. He gave up four hits and walked one.
“I knew getting ahead in the count was important because they would be looking to swing after Ethan’s shutout in the first game,” DeLoatch said. “I got locked in pretty good after getting some outs early and just tried to throw a lot of strikes.”
Alford went 3-for-3 with three runs scored to back DeLoatch while cleanup hitter Brett Huffman added a solo homer. Alford, O'Neil's pick to replace all-conference stud Josh Haley in center, had seven total hits on Saturday.
Dale Innes gets the start for the Braves (2-0) in today’s series finale. First pitch at Sammy Cox Field is set for 1 p.m.