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Pirates rally to top Thundering Herd

By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — Jamie Ray came up big in a pinch.
The senior’s pinch-hit double in the bottom of the ninth scored Trent Whitehead with the game-winner, lifting the No. 28 East Carolina Pirates to a 4-3 victory over the Marshall Thundering Herd in front of 3,621 fans Saturday evening at Clark-LeClair Stadium.
It was the fifth straight win for the Pirates (25-9, 7-5), including the second straight over the Herd (14-18-1, 4-6-1) in this Conference USA series.
With the score knotted at 3-3, Brandon Henderson led off the bottom of the ninth with a single off Marshall reliever Adam Dobies. Trent Whitehead attempted to move Henderson over to second. An error by the Herd allowed Whitehead to reach safely, putting two runners aboard.
Henderson was forced out at third on Dustin Harrington’s fielder’s choice, leaving Whitehead at second and Harrington at first. Ray, called upon as a pinch-hitter, followed by lacing a double off the wall in left off reliever Arik Sikula (1-3). Whitehead raced home with the game-winner.
The freshman, a former star with the Washington Pam Pack, said the run atoned for a catch he should have made in the top half of the inning. Victor Gomez’s bloop single that fell just in front of a diving Whitehead allowed the Herd to score the tying run.
Brad Mincey (2-0) was credited with the win.
Freshman Seth Maness was sensational for the Pirates, allowing just two hits in eight innings of work. He struck out seven and walked one.
Maness made just two mistakes, allowing a leadoff home run to Adam Yeager and a solo home run to Gomez in the fourth that tied the game at 2-2.
The Pirates took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first on the strength of two home runs. Stephen Batts hit his fifth of the year and Corey Kemp followed with his team-leading 11th blast. The home run extended Kemp’s hitting streak to a career-long 11 games.
Kemp came through again in the sixth to give the Pirates a 3-2 lead. Ryan Wood led off the inning with a walk, snapping a string of eight consecutive outs recorded by Marshall starter Steve Blevins (three runs on six hits in seven innings). Wood advanced to second on an error and later scored on Kemp’s single.
The Herd was able to tie it 3-3 in the ninth. Josh Valle spanked a one-out double into right and Nate Lape reached on a single off ECU reliever Josh Ruhlman. With nobody covering third for the Pirates, pinch-runner Matt Helm raced to the bag to put runners at the corners.
Gomez blooped a single into shallow right off Mincey, dropping just in front of a diving Whitehead that allowed Helm to score the game-tying run.
Whitehead and Ray, who have platooned in right field this season, combined for the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth.
The teams close out the series with today’s 1 p.m. game
Marshall 100 100 001 — 3 5 2
East Carolina 200 001 001 — 4 8 0
WP: Brad Mincey (2-0); LP: Arik Sikula (1-3)
Hitters: M — Victor Gomez 2-4 (HR, 2 RBI), Adam Yeager 1-3 (HR, RBI), Josh Valle 1-4 (2B), Nate Lape 1-4; ECU — Corey Kemp 2-4 (HR, 2 RBI), Harrison Eldridge 2-4 (2B), Jamie Ray 1-1 (2B, RBI), Stephen Batts 1-4 (HR, RBI), Broc Sutton 1-3, Brandon Henderson 1-4.