Pirates see season come to an end|Fall to Memphis

Published 7:50 pm Saturday, May 29, 2010

By Staff
C-USA Sports Information
HOUSTON – As the innings ticked away during Friday’s game between Memphis and East Carolina, the Tigers could not help but wonder how many opportunities they let slip through their fingers.
Down 2-1 heading into the bottom of the ninth, Memphis had stranded 11 runners on base – including nine in scoring position – and saw a suicide squeeze attempt cut down a potential tying run at the plate. But with one on, one out and the game on the line, Tigers’ left fielder Tyler Huelsing turned on a 1-0 offering from East Carolina reliever Seth Simmons and sent it high over the wall in right to lift Memphis to a 3-2 victory to open day three of the 2010 Conference USA Baseball Championship at the University of Houston’s Cougar Field.
“It was a big game, and we’ve been in a drought with home runs, but we stayed in for the whole game,” Huelsing said. “We came through a big hit.”
The game was likely the last of the 2010 season for both teams as Memphis improved to 28-30 – an eight-game improvement from a year ago – while East Carolina fell to 32-27. The Pirates were two outs away from earning a berth in Saturday’s C-USA Championship game, but Huelsing’s homer and a strong performance by Tigers’ starting pitcher Brennon Martin spelled doom for East Carolina.
“The story of their game was their left-hander, Brennon Martin,” ECU coach Billy Godwin said. “He threw outstanding. It’s very rare in college baseball where a pitcher can hold a good offensive team down so well, but he did.
“He did a great job today, and you have to tip your hat to him and their team. I’m proud of the way our guys battled, but a win just wasn’t in the cards.”
The Pirates jumped on Martin early in the ballgame as ECU first baseman Kyle Roller sent the seventh pitch of the contest out to right for a two-run homer. From there, however, the Tigers’ hurler rebounded to give up just two singles the rest of the way and sat down the final 18 East Carolina batters to step to the plate.
Martin (6-6) tied a career high with nine strikeouts and walked just one to close out his collegiate career with his second complete-game effort of the year.
“We talked about going into today and approaching it the way we did. We played the way we play and had good defense,” Memphis coach Daron Schoenrock said. “Brennon was obviously tremendous on the mound. He’s a fifth-year senior, and he knew that was his last game and he put a lot of effort into it.”
Memphis out-hit East Carolina, 10-4, and was led by shortstop Chad Zurcher who went 3-for-4 with a double and a stolen base. Zurcher’s lone at-bat in where he did not earn a base hit was huge as well, as he reached on a one-out throwing error to set up Huelsing’s walk-off bomb.
Roller’s two-run homer was preceded by a one-out single off the bat of shortstop John Wooten. From there, just three East Carolina batters reached base safely and only one got as far as third base.
Down 2-0, Memphis cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the second when designated hitter Rick Russell singled up the middle, advanced to third on a base hit by catcher Shawn Ablett, and scored on a one-out RBI single off the bat of first baseman Trey Wiedman two at-bats later.
The Tigers had a chance to scratch across a few more runs in the third, fifth, seventh and eighth innings. On each occasion, Pirate pitchers were able to wiggle of the hook. Starter Zach Woods got back-to-back outs in the third to strand runners at second and third base and got Russell to strike out looking in the fifth to leave to more on the base paths.
Memphis had runners at second and third with only one out in the seventh to chase Woods from the game, and Kevin Brandt pulled a near miracle as he got Huelsing to swing and miss on a suicide attempt to allow catcher Jared Avchen to tag Drew Martinez barreling in from third, and got Huelsing to strike out swinging on the next pitch to end the threat.
One inning later, the Tigers had the bases loaded with only one out, but Simmons fanned Wiedman and got Adam McClain to bounce into a 6-4 fielder’s choice to keep it a 2-1 ballgame and set up the dramatic finish.
Simmons was tagged with the loss after giving up two runs (one earned) on one hit and one walk while striking out a pair in 1.0 inning of work. Lost in the shuffle was a solid start by Woods, who finished the day with eight strikeouts while scattering one run on eight hits and a pair of walks in 6.1 frames.
While neither East Carolina nor Memphis will advance to play in Saturday’s title game, the Pirates’ loss assures Southern Miss of a place in tomorrow’s contest no matter what the Golden Eagles’ do tonight against Houston.
The title game of the 2010 Conference USA Championship will begin at 7 p.m. on Saturday and will be aired live on CBS College Sports Network.
Trent Whitehead, a former star with the Washington Pam Pack, went 0-for-4 in the game. The junior hit .331 (81-for-245) on the season. The junior leadoff hitter had four home runs, 31 RBIs, 51 runs scored, 15 doubles and 15 stolen bases.
In his career, Whitehead is hitting .343 in his career (210-for-612). He has 14 home runs, 93 RBIs, 151 runs scored, 30 stolen bases and 39 doubles.
He has played 173 games in his career, starting 141 of them.