Pirates fall to the No. 20 Wolfpack
By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — For the second straight day, the East Carolina Pirates turned in an All-American performance against an All-American.
ECU was able to knock around preseason All-American pitcher Andrew Brackman a bit. However, it wasn’t quite enough as the Pirates fell 5-4 in 10 innings to the No. 20 N.C. State Wolfpack in the 4th Annual Keith LeClair Classic.
The game was played in front of a record 5,523 fans on a warm Saturday at a jam-packed Clark-LeClair Stadium. The previous high attendance was 5,041 in a 2-1 victory over N.C. State on April 12, 2006.
It was announced as the biggest crowd to ever watch a college baseball game in North Carolina.
The Wolfpack battled back from a 4-1 deficit and tied it in the sixth. Pinch-hitter Mike Roskopf’s RBI-single in the 10th was the game-winner.
The Pirates (6-6), who saw their four-game winning streak get snapped, were looking to record their first consecutive victories over Top-20 teams since Feb. 28 and 29, 2004. ECU topped No. 11 Clemson 3-2 and 6-4 on those dates.
Saturday’s loss to the Wolfpack (10-2) came one day after the Pirates defeated No. 12 Pepperdine and its All-American pitcher, Barry Enright, 5-4.
ECU was able to get to State’s pitching ace early. Brackman, a 6-9 junior, entered the game with a 3-0 record and 0.52 ERA. Brackman didn’t factor in the decision. He went five innings and surrendered four runs on six hits, striking out six and walking five.
Eldridge belted a two-run homer off the scoreboard in right off Brackman to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead in the third. Two batters later, Brandon Henderson sent his fourth long ball of the season into The Jungle for a 3-0 advantage.
The Wolfpack got on the board in the top of the fifth. Matt Payne crushed a triple into center and then scooted home on Drew Martin’s groundout, making it 3-1.
ECU answered in the bottom half. Stephen Batts hit a wind-aided triple down the line in right. Corey Kemp followed with a blooper into left that scored Batts for a 4-1 lead.
State tied the game 4-4 with a three-run sixth, chasing ECU starter Dustin Sasser (four runs on five hits with two strikeouts and three walks in 5 2/3 innings) in the process.
Ryan Howard’s two-run shot into right, his first of the season, pulled State within 4-3. Jeremy Synan’s pinch-hit single off ECU reliever Brett Butts tied the game at 4-4.
Tough both teams had chances to score, it stayed tied until the10th inning.
ECU reliever John Ruhlman (two hits in two innings) worked out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the eighth.
The Pirates loaded the bases in the ninth, but failed to score.
State took the lead in the 10th off ECU closer Shane Mathews (0-2). Ramon Corona led off with a double into right as Pirate outfielder Ryan Tousley seemed to lose the fly ball in the lights. A walk and an error loaded the bases. Two outs later, Roskopf’s seeing-eye single into left gave the Wolfpack a 5-4 lead.
Wolfpack reliever Eryk McConnell (1-0) allowed a leadoff single to Drew Schieber in the bottom half. Schieber went to second on a sacrifice, but he was left stranded there to end the game. McConnell allowed two hits in 2 1/3 innings in getting the win.
In Saturday’s first game of the tournament, No. 12 Pepperdine (12-4) posted a 3-1 win over Western Carolina (6-3).
ECU closes out the tournament at 3 p.m. today against Western Carolina. Josh Dowdy (0-1) will start for the Pirates and the Catamounts will counter with Drew Saberhagen (1-1).
N.C. State and Pepperdine play at 11 a.m.