Missed opportunities for Pirates in loss to Gamecocks|ECU must win three straight to advance

Published 11:30 pm Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sports Editor

GREENVILLE — Talk about frustration. Talk about missed opportunities.
Top-seed East Carolina certainly had its chances against second-seed South Carolina, but it was the Gamecocks who capitalized on their opportunities in a 12-2 thrashing of the No. 17 Pirates.
The loss, coming Saturday night at Clark-LeClair Stadium in the 2009 Greenville Regional, means the Pirates must now win three straight in order to advance to the Super Regionals. ECU (43-18) will have to beat fourth-seed Binghamton in today’s 2 p.m. elimination game, then beat South Carolina (40-21) at 6 p.m. today and again at 6 p.m. Monday.
“It has certainly been a long day and that’s not the way I wanted it to end,” ECU coach Billy Godwin said. “I think I’ve used this line before, but somebody told me that you have to lose two games to be out and we haven’t done that yet.
“I think these guys are focused and we’ll bounce back tomorrow. I can assure you of that.”
Two straight wins has the Gamecocks in the driver’s seat.
“We were very fortunate to be able to win tonight,” South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said. “East Carolina, as we all know, has a potent offense. We were very fortunate that we had some big hits. We played a very nice game.”
Justin Dalles (4-for-5), who overcame recent food poisoning, led the charge with a pair of home runs, including a grand slam in the eighth, and seven RBIs for the Gamecocks.
“I was ready to play,” Dalles said. “We have good trainers that took care of me.”
ECU had its chances, collecting 10 hits over the first five innings against South Carolina starter Blake Cooper (10-4), who scattered 14 hits in a complete-game victory. However, the Pirates left 13 runners stranded, including eight in scoring position.
“I don’t think I’ve been part of a situation so many times that early in the game where we were able to get off the hook,” Tanner said. “You have to give Blake a tremendous amount of credit for pitching out of some pickles. He’s a cagey veteran.”
The Pirates had the bases loaded in the third, fourth innings and fifth innings, but came up empty. Dustin Harrington bounced into an inning-ending double play in the third, Stephen Batts flied out to right with the bases juiced in the fourth and Jared Avchen flied out with the bags packed in the fifth.
“That’s probably the most disappointing part about it is that we had so many hits and so many opportunities, but just couldn’t capitalize,” senior first baseman Brandon Henderson said. “We’re very disappointed in the way it turned out, but like coach (Godwin) said, we’re still in it and aren’t done yet.”
The Pirates finished with 14 hits, and 10 different players had at least one hit. However, ECU didn’t get on the scoreboard until Corey Thompson’s pinch-hit, two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth, when the Pirates trailed 12-0.
South Carolina cranked out 17 hits, with eight of them going for extra bases.
Adam Matthews (4-for-5, 3 runs) belted a pair of solo home runs. DeAngelo Mack (2-for-5) smacked a pair of doubles and drove in one.
The Gamecocks put up single runs in the first two innings. Matthews clobbered the first of his two homers, a no-doubter into left in the second, for a 2-0 lead.
Dalles smacked a two-run shot and Bobby Haney ripped an RBI single in the sixth for a 5-0 advantage.
Dalles beat out an infield hit to drive in another run, chasing ECU starter Seth Maness (9-2) in the seventh. The sophomore gave up six runs on 11 hits in 6 2/3 innings.
South Carolina broke it wide open with a six-run eighth, going up 12-0. Dalles provided the key blow with a grand slam, his 14th homer of the year, and Matthews belted his second homer of the game.
The Pirates avoided the shutout when Thompson belted the first home run of his career in the bottom half.
Trent Whitehead, Devin Harris, Drew Schieber and Avchen all had two hits for the Pirates.
Godwin said he believes ECU has the pitching to win the regional.
“I personally think we’re in great shape,” Godwin said. “We haven’t used Kevin Brandt, who has been one of our top guys. We’ve only used Brad Mincey one inning and Seth Simmons, our closer, has not thrown yet. I think we’ve got some depth and we’re in good shape.”
The Pirates advanced to the evening contest with an 11-7 win over Binghamton on Saturday morning. Trent Whitehead, Devin Harris and Dustin Harrington all homered for the Pirates. Bailey Daniels (2-2), who pitched four innings of one-run ball, was credited with the win. Chris Heston started and was lifted after allowing six runs on 10 hits in four innings.
Joe Charron had three hits, including a pair of home runs, and four RBIs for the Bearcats. Murphy Smith (7-3) suffered the loss.
(Check out Sunday’s WDN or the related story on the web site.)
* – Trent Whitehead, a former Washington Pam Pack star, led off the bottom of the sixth with a single into left. It extended his hitting streak to 14 games. Whitehead also singled in the eighth, giving him 99 hits this season, which is the second most in ECU single-season history. Darryl Lawhorn holds the school-record with 104 hits in 2002.
Whitehead had five at-bats to give him 259 for the year, which is the second most in school history. Jamie Paige holds the record with 267 at-bats in 2004.
* – Chocowinity’s Britton Cole appeared in the eighth inning, but failed to record an out. The senior gave up two hits, including the grand slam to Justin Dalles, and walked one.
* – The Pirates are now 4-16 all-time against the Gamecocks. ECU has never beaten South Carolina in postseason play, also falling in the six games prior to Saturday night’s setback.
The Gamecocks have taken wins of 4-2 and 5-3 in the 2004 Columbia (S.C.) Super Regionals, 4-0 in the 2003 Atlanta Regional, 6-5 in the 1993 Atlantic Regional in Atlanta, 4-1 in the 1977 Atlantic Regional in Columbia and 5-1 in the 1974 District 3 Playoffs.
* – J.D. and Audrey LeClair, son and daughter of the late ECU coaching great Keith LeClair, threw out the ceremonial first pitches prior to the game.
* – Saturday night’s 2009 Greenville Regional at Clark-LeClair Stadium was played in front of 4,595 fans, the eighth largest crowd in stadium history.
2009 NCAA Greenville Regional
Clark-LeClair Stadium
Friday’s Games
Game 1: (2) South Carolina 11, George Mason (3) 3
Saturday’s Games
Game 2: (1) East Carolina 11, (4) Binghamton 7
Game 3: Binghamton 11, George Mason 6, George Mason eliminated
Game 4: South Carolina 12, East Carolina 2
Sunday’s Games
Game 5: 2 p.m. – East Carolina vs. Binghamton
Game 6: 6 p.m. – South Carolina vs. East Carolina-Binghamton winner
Monday’s Game
Game 7: 6 p.m. – South Carolina vs. East Carolina-Binghamton winner, if necessary