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Eldridge delivers big blow for Pirates

By Staff
By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — Just when it looked like East Carolina was headed for an elimination game, Harrison Eldridge’s mighty swing changed all that.
The junior centerfielder smashed a two-out, three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh to help give the No. 2 seed Pirates a 4-2 win over the No. 7 seed Tulane Green Wave in Wednesday‘s first round of the Conference USA Tournament at Clark-LeClair Stadium.
The Pirates (37-20) will play No. 3 seed Southern Miss (38-19) at 7:30 p.m. today in the winner’s bracket, while the Green Wave (32-25) will face No. 6 seed UAB (25-32) in an elimination game at 12:30 p.m.
Tulane held a 2-0 lead going into the seventh and it appeared that’s all Shooter Hunt (6-6) would need. The Green Wave sophomore had held the Pirates to one hit. He went on to finish with nine strikeouts, including six straight at one point, in 7 1/3 innings of work.
However, he made one mistake pitch and Eldridge made him pay.
Jake Dean got ECU’s first hit since the third inning, a one-out liner that glanced off Hunt, in the seventh. Drew Schieber followed by drawing a walk to get two aboard.
After a deep fly out by pinch hitter Brandon Henderson, Eldridge stepped to the plate. Eldridge belted Hunt’s 1-2 offering over the fence in right for his sixth homer of the year, pumping his fist as he ran around first base.
It helped the junior atone for grounding out to end a bases-loaded threat in the second.
ECU relievers Bailey Daniels (4-1), who got the win, and Shane Mathews, who notched his 13th save, kept the Green Wave off the scoreboard in the final two innings to preserve the win. Daniels allowed one hit and struck out one in 1 1/3 innings.
The Pirates tacked on an insurance run in the eighth. Stephen Batts, who
extended his hitting streak to 23 games with a single in the third, slapped a one-out single and came around to score on Jamie Ray’s two-out single into left.
Batts tied Chad Tracy (2001) for the second longest in team history, with a single in the third. Steve Sides (1987) holds the record with a 28-game hitting streak.
The Green Wave took its 2-0 lead in the sixth. After Tim Guidry singled to right, Brad Emaus beat out a chopper to third. Warren McFadden sacrificed the runners across. Ty Wallace scored both runners with a single into left to give Tulane the lead.
That ended the night for ECU starter T.J. Hose (6-5), who allowed the two runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings. The junior struck out five, walked three and hit one batter.
Reliever Jason Neitz (two hits and two strikeouts in 1 1/3 innings) came on and struck out the next two batters.
With the Pirates clinging to the two-run lead heading to the ninth, Godwin turned the ball over to his closer. Mathews retired the side in order, including two by strikeout, to close it out.
2007 C-USA Tournament
Clark-LeClair Stadium
Greenville
Wednesday’s Games
Game 1 – 9 a.m. – (5) Memphis 12, (4) Houston 4
Game 2 – 12:30 p.m. – (1) Rice 16, (8) UCF 6
Game 3 – 4 p.m. – (3) Southern Miss 9, (6) UAB 5
Game 4 – 7:30 p.m. – (2) East Carolina 4, (7) Tulane 2
Thursday’s Games
Game 5 – 9 a.m. – (4) Houston vs. (8) UCF
Game 6 – 12:30 p.m. – (6) UAB vs. (7) Tulane
Game 7 – 4 p.m. – (5) Memphis vs. (1) Rice
Game 8 – 7:30 p.m. – (3) Southern Miss vs. (2) East Carolina
Friday’s Games
Game 9 – 3 p.m. – Game 5 winner vs. Game 7 loser
Game 10 – 6:30 p.m. – Game 6 winner vs. Game 8 loser
Saturday’s Games
Game 11 – 9 a.m. – Game 7 winner vs. Game 9 winner
Game 12 – 12:30 p.m. – Game 8 winner vs. Game 10 winner
Game 13 – 4 p.m. – Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, if necessary
Game 14 – 7:30 p.m. – Game 8 winner vs. Game 10 winner, if necessary
Sunday’s Game
1 p.m. – Championship game