Pirates edge Herd in extras

Published 8:12 pm Saturday, May 5, 2012

GREENVILLEEast Carolina (30-16-1, 12-7-1) scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth and another in the tenth to claim a 8-7 victory over Marshall (15-30, 3-14) Saturday afternoon in Conference USA action at Lewis Field inside Clark-LeClair Stadium. With the win, the Pirates recorded their fourth C-USA series win of the season to remain in the hunt for the regular season crown.

Philip Clark delivered the game-winning hit on a bunt single down the third base line in the bottom of the 10th, which scored Zach Wright, who led off the inning after being hit by a Jesse Fernandez pitch. He moved into scoring position on Drew Reynolds sac bunt back to Jesse Fernandez in front of the mound and took third on Chase McDonald’s ground out to second.

Fernandez (1-1) suffered the loss after giving up three runs (two earned) on one hit. The right-hander walked one and did not record a strikeout.

Trailing 7-5 in the ninth, the Pirates were able to muster just enough offense to force extra innings. Clark, who was batting for the first time on the day, began the ninth with a base hit up the middle and later advanced to second after Ben Fultz drew a walk. Tim Younger failed to execute a sacrifice bunt, popping the attempt up to Marshall catcher Thor Meeks for the first out of the inning. Fernandez then plunked Drew Reynolds with a pitch to load the bases.

Corey Thompson followed with an RBI groundout to cut the Pirate deficit to 7-6. Fernandez threw a low breaking ball to John Wooten, who watched the ball as it skipped past Meeks allowing Fultz to come home and tie the game.

Tanner Merritt (3-4) earned the win for the Pirates and allowed two earned runs on three hits in the final 2 2/3 innings of work. The redshirt sophomore walked two and struck out one. Merritt allowed a three-run double off the bat of Eric Escobedo in the top of the eighth, which gave Marshall a 7-5 lead.

Andy Smithmyer worked 3 1/3 innings of relief for East Carolina. He surrendered just one run on two hits, while walking two and striking out a pair. Smithmyer relieved starter Tyler Joyner with the bases loaded in the top of the fifth after Joyner failed to record an out in the inning. He induced a double-play grounder and a fly out to escape the stanza without any further damage.

Marshall took a 2-0 lead in the third after Nathan Gomez delivered an RBI single and Sergio Leon scored following a throwing error by Jack Reinheimer.

The Pirates responded and grabbed a 5-2 lead in the fourth. Thompson, who led off the inning with a double, scored on a throwing error by Marshall third baseman Mikey Jimenez. McDonald plated the second run of the stanza on a double down the left field line and Mike Ussery laid down a suicide squeeze bunt to push ECU ahead, 3-2. Fultz grounded out to second later in the frame, which scored McDonald. Younger extended the lead to 5-2 with an RBI single to center.

The Herd trimmed its deficit to one, 5-4, with a pair of runs in the fifth. Escobedo plated a run with a single and Gomez scored later in the frame after Smithmyer had induced the double-player grounder off the bat of Andrew Dundon.

The score remained 5-4 until Escobedo’s three-run double in the eighth, just inside the left field foul line.

Joyner lasted just four innings allowing four runs (one earned) on nine hits with five strikeouts, while his counterpart, Aaron Blair, surrendered five runs (two earned) on eight hits with five punch outs in six innings of work.

It was third walk-off win for the Pirates thus far in 2012 and the fourth time in which ECU won in its final at-bat.

Younger, Reinheimer and Clark each notched multi-hit performances for East Carolina.

The Pirates were celebrating Senior Day Saturday afternoon, and four seniors who saw action (Younger, Wright, Thompson and Ussery) all recorded a hit, RBI or run on the afternoon.

ECU will look for its second home sweep of the season in league play when they take the field Sunday, May 6 at 1 p.m. (EST).