Pirates win another thriller

Published 8:16 pm Saturday, March 17, 2012

East Carolina pitcher Tyler Joyner (center) throws out Penn State’s Aaron Novak (8) from his stomach after Novak’s line drive knocked Joyner’s glove off his hand in the fourth inning of the Pirates’ 6-5 victory on Saturday in Greenville. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

GREENVILLE — Is it better to be lucky or good? For East Carolina the answer is a little bit of both.
Sporting green hats to celebrate their St. Patrick’s Day duel with Penn State, the luck of the Irish was definitely on East Carolina’s side Saturday as they rallied back from a four-run ninth-inning deficit to force a 10th inning, where their only lead of the day would come courtesy of a PSU error that allowed the Pirates to pull out a 6-5 victory.
Down 5-1 with two runners on and two out in the home half of the ninth, East Carolina’s Corey Thompson smashed a screaming line drive that grazed over the leftfield fence at Clark-LeClair Stadium to breath life into a Pirates’ offense that had been on lacking a pulse for most of the day.
In the next at bat, John Wooten would make sure Thompson’s effort didn’t go to waste as he scorched a solo shot in the same direction to knot the game at five apiece.
After Dario Santangelo and Tanner Merritt, the game’s winning pitcher, teamed up to throw a scoreless 10th, the Pirates didn’t wait long to cage the Lions. Zach Wright led off the inning with a walk and advanced to second on a Jay Cannon ground out. Wright would cross home plate for the game-winning run when PSU second baseman Luis Montesinos fielded a Philip Clark grounder and made a wild throw to first to end the game.
Lucky or good? That didn’t matter to the Pirates who could rejoice after winning their second straight game in dramatic fashion.
“We did it last night and today we came back from being down four,” Thompson said. “It’s a big team win. There were great at-bats all the way through … It took extra innings for us to win it, but we did and that’s great. It shows how much this team doesn’t want to give up and that we always play well.”
The victory pushes aside a fantastic effort from Penn State’s J.C. Cobin who ended the day going 3-4 with four RBIs while falling a single short of the hitting for the cycle.
Also putting forth a strong performance was Lions starter John Walter who threw 7 2/3 innings and scattered five hits while allowing one earned run.
PSU reliever Dave Walkling came on in the 10th and allowed and pitched 1/3 of an inning to get the loss.
The four-run rally in the ninth took ECU starter Tyler Joyner off the hook for the loss, which leaves his perfect 3-0 record intact. Joyner pitched well as he struck out seven batters in eight innings and walked two while allowing four earned runs.
On Friday, the Pirates squandered a ninth inning lead against the Lions, only to recapture it with a Cannon walk-off homer. On Saturday, the team’s flair for the dramatics resurfaced.
“It’s a little different than yesterday when we lost the momentum and then were able to regain with a walk-off,” ECU coach Billy Godwin said. “Today we gained (momentum) and capitalized on it and had it carry over.”
The Pirates will hope that momentum carries over for one more day as they will try and complete their sweep of the Lions today at 1 p.m.

PSU    002    000    201    0    –    5    9    1
ECU    000    100    004    1    –    6    10    0
WP: Tanner Merrit; LP: Dave Walkling
PHitting: PSU — Sean Deegan 1-5, Joey DeBernardis 2-5, Jordan Steranka 2-5, Zach Ell 1-2, J.C. Coban 3-4; ECU — Bryan Bass 2-5, Tim Younger 1-5, Corey Thompson 2-5 (HR, 3 RBIs), Drew Reynolds 2-4, Jay Cannon 1-3 (RBI), Philip Clark 1-1.