Pirates get clawed by Cougars|Face must-win situation today

Published 6:12 pm Friday, May 21, 2010

By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — With their tournament fate hanging in the balance, the East Carolina Pirates need to find some late-season magic. Playing a critical three-game Conference USA series with Houston, the Pirates got off to a rough start Thursday night, falling 8-6 to the Cougars.
Houston (23-19, 10-12 C-USA) used a seven-run third inning to take control and the Pirates (30-24, 10-12 C-USA), losers of three straight, could never recover.
“We couldn’t string together any outs and they strung together hits,” ECU coach Billy Godwin said of the Cougars. “That’s tough to come back from.”
The loss forces ECU into a virtual must-win situation in the final two games of the regular season. The Pirates need to win today’s game, an 8 p.m. contest that will be aired on CBS College Sports, and Saturday’s finale that is slated for a 1 p.m. start.
The top six teams qualify for the C-USA Tournament. Only Rice (16-6), the regular-season champions, and Southern Miss (13-9) had punched their tickets into the tournament prior to Thursday night.
Memphis (11-11) and Marshall (12-12) are third and fourth in the C-USA standings. Houston (10-12), ECU (10-12) and UAB (10-12) are tied for fifth, followed by Tulane (9-13) and UCF (9-13).
“Our guys knew coming in that two wins was our number to get into the tournament,” Godwin said. “We have to do that. (Today) is going to be win-at-all-costs. We have to rally around each other and play a complete game of baseball.
“I think (the players) know what’s on the line. I think if they’re competitors, they’re going to come out and pick themselves up. That’s what this game teaches — when things don’t go your way, you have to pick yourself up and pick up the guy beside you”
John Wooten (2-4, HR, 2 RBIs) gave the Pirates a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Kyle Roller drew a two-out walk and Wooten followed with a two-run blast, his seventh of the year, into left-center.
Houston sent 10 batters to the plate and six straight reached safely in the pivotal seven-run third inning. M.P. Cokinos delivered the big blow with a three-run shot, his seventh of the year.
Caleb Ramsey hit a two-run single while Joel Ansley and Zak Presley added run-scoring singles for a 7-2 lead.
That was the only rough inning ECU starter Zach Woods (8-4) had on the night. He allowed the seven runs on nine hits, striking out five and walking two in 6 1/3 innings.
Devin Harris pulled the Pirates within 7-4 with a two-run homer, his 10th of the year, in the sixth.
That was all Houston starter Michael Goodnight (6-7) allowed. He surrendered the four runs on five hits, striking out seven and walking three in seven innings.
Chris Wallace gave the Cougars a little more breathing room with a solo shot, his ninth, off reliever Shawn Armstrong in the eighth.
The Pirates tried to rally in the bottom of the eighth, pulling within 8-6. ECU loaded the bases off Houston closer Matt Creel. Austin Homan’s groundout scored one run and, after another walk re-loaded the bases, Chris Gosik slapped an RBI single to make it a two-run game.
The Pirates couldn’t get any closer, and their backs are now against the wall.
“It’s a very important game,” Harris said of today’s game. “We just have to find a way to do it. As a baseball player, you have to find a way to erase a loss like this. We have to come out and play well.”
ECU is now forced to win today’s game. Godwin likes his chances with star Seth Maness throwing for the Pirates.
“If there’s a guy I want going in a must-win game, it’s Seth Maness,” Godwin said. “But we have to do some things around him. He can’t come out and win it by himself.”