Pirates fight off elimination
CHAPEL HILL — After dropping the NCAA Chapel Hill Regional opener to St. John’s Friday, June 1, East Carolina staved off elimination with a 10-6 victory over Cornell Saturday afternoon at Boshamer Stadium.
With the win, the No. 2-seeded Pirates kept their season alive as they are set to take the field again Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. (ET) in yet another elimination game. The Purple and Gold awaits the loser of Saturday’s nightcap, which features the tournament’s two undefeated clubs, North Carolina and St. John’s.
Trailing 4-2 after four frames, East Carolina exploded for five runs in the fifth to seize a 7-4 advantage. Drew Reynolds (2-for-5), who opened the scoring with a solo home run in the third, led off the fifth-inning rally with a single up the middle before moving to second after Corey Thompson was hit-by-a-pitch. John Wooten executed a sacrifice bunt back to Cornell starter Brian McAfee, whose throw to first sailed wide, allowing Reynolds to score, while Thompson and Wooten advanced into scoring position.
Jay Cannon, experiencing action in his first career NCAA post-season action, drove in Thompson with a run-scoring ground out to short, knotting the score at four. Senior catcher Zach Wright lifted a towering sacrifice fly just shy of the warning track in left, giving East Carolina a slim 5-4 edge.
Chase McDonald, who has now collected at least one hit in all six NCAA post-season contests, singled to continue ECU’s offensive outburst in the fifth. The Greenville, N.C., native’s base knock chased McAfee from the mound as Cornell replaced the freshman right-hander with TJ Parthemer.
Jack Reinheimer greeted Parthemer with an infield single to third, keeping the inning alive for Mike Ussery, whose RBI single increased the lead to two runs. Tim Younger added a run-scoring single – the third consecutive hit off Parthemer – to put East Carolina ahead 7-4.
McAfee (6-1) yielded six runs (three earned) on eight hits and walked two in 4 2/3 frames. Parthemer did not record an out after entering with two down in the fifth as he allowed three hits and a run before giving way to Connor Kaufmann.
Kaufmann avoided further damage in the fifth by retiring Reynolds, ECU’s 10th batter of the frame. The right-hander walked a pair, allowed one hit and one run before leaving the game in the seventh with a reoccurring injury.
Cornell wasted little time answering East Carolina’s attack, scoring a pair of runs in its half of the fifth to climb back within one, 7-6. Pirate starter Kevin Brandt retired just one batter in the inning before being replaced by fellow southpaw Tyler Joyner. Cornell got hits from Chris Cruz (single), Brandon Lee (double) and Tom D’Alessandro (single) against Brandt to pull within a pair of runs, 7-5.
Joyner entered the game with the bases loaded and one out. The Rocky Mount, N.C., native promptly hit Ben Swinford to force in a run, which was charged to Brandt and trimmed the Pirate advantage to one.
Joyner responded by retiring Brenton Peters on a shallow fly ball to left and striking out Marshall Yanzick to preserve East Carolina’s one-run edge.
Brandt, who entered the game with a 1.85 ERA, surrendered six runs (four earned) on a season-high 11 hits in 4 1/3 innings. He walked one and struck out two, moving into sixth place on ECU’s all-time strikeout list with 272.
Joyner (6-2) was brilliant after escaping the bases loaded jam in the fifth as he went on to allow just one hit and one walk, while striking out three in 4 2/3 scoreless innings.
The Pirates gave themselves much-needed breathing room by plating a trio of runs in the seventh to seize a 10-6 lead.
After Reinheimer and Younger drew walks to put runners on first and second with one out, Cornell reliever Kellen Urbon retired Reynolds on a lineout to Cruz and induced a soft grounder off the bat of Thompson, but Yanick stumbled as he fielded the slow roller and his throw to first eluded Hager, allowing Reinheimer to score.
With an 8-6 lead, East Carolina capitalized further on Yanick’s miscue as Wooten (RBI single) and Cannon (RBI double) put the Pirates ahead, 10-6.
Urbon surrendered just one unearned run on three hits in 2 2/3 innings.
Cornell threatened in the ninth as the Big Red had two guys on base, but Kevin Tatum’s fielder’s choice groundout sealed the win for Joyner and ECU.
All nine ECU starters recorded a hit, while Reynolds, Wooten, Cannon, Wright, McDonald and Reinheimer each produced a pair of knocks. Cannon was the only Pirate with more than one RBI.
Reynolds’ solo blast into the pine trees behind the right-field fence put ECU ahead 1-0 in the third. The Pirates added another run in the fourth to claim a 2-0 lead. Reinheimer drove in Wright, who singled and stole second to set up the scoring play.
Cornell roughed up Brandt in the fourth with four runs to take a two-run lead. The Big Red were able to do so behind RBI hits from Lee, D’Alessandro and Swinford, while pushing across another after Yanzick was hit by a Brandt offering with the bases loaded.
The 2012 Ivy League Champions finished the season with a 31-17-1 ledger, while advancing to the NCAA Tournament for only the second time in program history.
With the triumph, ECU (36-23-1) kept its hopes alive of reaching its fourth regional championship game in five years. First pitch for tomorrow’s game is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. (ET). If East Carolina wins the afternoon game, the Regional Final will begin at 6:00 p.m.