Cincinnati takes Game 2 over ECU
John Swartz, Sports Correspondent
GREENVILLE -- If you can imagine a baseball game being played on a seesaw, then you didn't need to be in attendance at Harrington Field to see the Pirates (17-10-1, 5-3) host Cincinnati (8-16, 2-6) on Saturday night.
The back and forth game ended up with the Bearcats on the better side of a 4-3 score. The teams split the doubleheader, but ECU took the series 2-1.
Cincinnati put on the first scare of the game in the third when Mark Muscenti and Justin Neifer reached base with one out, then Jon DeLuca hit into an apparent double play. However, on the out at second, Neifer slid in feet up to take out Luke Cherry and the throw could not be made. After a short delay, and much to the crowd's elation, the umpire called runner interference on Neifer and the Pirates were out of the inning.
Ryan Jones didn't get a hit to reach first base, but his hustle caused a throwing error and allowed him to reach first. Then Darryl Lawhorn hit a one-hop bouncer that was just high enough for Jones to reach third, and to put himself at first. After Lawhorn was caught stealing at second, Ryan Norwood hit a pop fly to center that was just deep enough to score Jones from third. The next batter, Jake Smith, got a pitch to work with, and gave one lucky fan in the "Jungle" a souvenir as he capped the scoring for the Pirate two-run fourth inning.
With two on and no outs, Pirate pitcher Will Brinson found himself in an extra sticky jam in the sixth. Brinson struck out Brad Dorman to record the first out. However, a wild pitch advanced the runners to second and third. Brinson was still knee deep in the jam. Then, Drew Saylor hit a two-run single that drew the teams even. Brad Schutz's RBI double made sure the game wasn't tied for long.
That was the last pitch for Brinson; he gave up three runs on six hits. Greg Bunn came in and recorded a strikeout to finally end the Bearcat rally. An uneventful half inning for the Pirates allowed the Bearcats to retain the lead going into the seventh.
Saylor once again played spoiler in the eighth as he hit a home run over the center field wall to extend the Bearcat lead to two runs.
Down two runs in the bottom of the ninth, the Pirates had one more chance with the heart of the order due up. Jones and Lawhorn provided quick outs, but Norwood went yard for the seventh time this season. His target was his usual spot, the famed "Jungle" of Harrington Field.
Along with the much needed run, Norwood's hit sent a surge of confidence through the Pirate faithful that they were going to see their beloved Pirates come from behind yet one more time this season.
With every batter ECU's final hope, Jake Smith was next to take a crack at the Bearcats. That's just what Smith did; he hit a shot right back at Bearcat pitcher Rob Reel that hit him right in the chest. The stunned Reel scooped up the ball and tried to get the game-ending out at first. His throw was slightly off target as the ball sailed about 15 feet over DeLuca's head. Smith went all the way to third on the error. Minicozzi then drew a walk to represent the go-ahead run at first.
The crowd went silent as pinch hitter John Poppert hit what, at first, appeared to be the coveted walk-off home run, but the wind just took the ball into foul territory. Perhaps sensing that his chance had passed him by, Poppert went down swinging to end the game and the Pirates hope for a comeback.
When the Pirates found themselves down in the late innings, it was a situation in which they have found themselves in quite often this season. However, it was not meant to be twice in one day.
Cincinnati 000 003 010 -- 4 8 2
East Carolina 000 200 001 -- 3 6 1
ECU -- Darryl Lawhorn 2-4; Ryan Norwood 1-3 (HR, 2 RBI); Jake Smith 3-4 (RBI); C -- Justin Niefer 2-4; Jon DeLuca 1-5; Brad Dorrmann 1-4; Drew Saylor 2-4 (HR, 3 RBI); Brad Schutz 2-3.