Pirates right the ship against UNC

Published 10:22 am Wednesday, April 23, 2014




By Daniel Hunt

For The Washington Daily News


With both the tying and winning run on base in the bottom of the ninth, North Carolina’s Skye Bolt stepped to the dish with a chance to break the hearts of Pirate fans yet again. The Tarheels had already scored once in the inning to bring the score to 3-2 and UNC had previously defeated ECU by two runs or less in four consecutive matchups. The Pirate collapse seemed inevitable, but steady right-hander Ryan Williams (10-2, 1.70) fanned Bolt to close out a dramatic ECU win on Tuesday night.

Not only did the Pirates achieve their first win over in-state foe UNC since 2009, but they became the fifth ECU team in the past 25 years (2014, 2009, 1999, 1993 and 1990) to record wins over both UNC and N.C. State in the same season.

“It’s great for our fans. They go to work with State and Carolina fans,” said head coach Billy Godwin. “But our baseball program is special here. We feel like we can step on the field and play with anybody in the country on any given day.”

The Pirates picked up what turned out to be a crucial insurance run in the bottom of the eighth when shortstop Hunter Allen drove Ben Fultz home on a knock to left field.

After Zach Daly reached on an error, the Tarheels strung together a couple of hits. The latter was an RBI single from Wood Myers. But Williams, who tossed 4.1 innings of two-hit ball, allowing just one unearned run and striking out four, was able to buckle down with two runners on and retire Joe Dudek (fly out) and Skye Bolt (strikeout).

“These guys battled so hard. After they scratched that run late, I wanted to make sure I got them the win,” said Williams.

The senior picked up his 10th win of the season, becoming the first Pirate pitcher to reach the double-digit mark since Seth Maness, a relief pitcher for the Saint Louis Cardinals, did it in 2011. Williams, who moved from the weekend rotation into the bullpen before the season started, became the first pitcher in the country to reach 10 wins.

“Coach told me before the season that I had a chance to be on the hill every day and help the Pirates,” said Williams. “I couldn’t be happier doing that this year.”

ECU right fielder Ian Townsend came up with another huge play in the top of the fourth. With the Pirates leading, 1-0, UNC catcher Korey Dunbar sent a long fly ball into right field that appeared destined for the parking lot, but Townsend soared well above the wall for a highlight-reel grab that robbed Dunbar of a solo shot.

“I got a good read on it,” said Townsend. “The feeling [afterwards] was great. The crowd going wild made me feel on top of the world.”

UNC knotted the game up in the fifth when third baseman Landon Lassiter homered to left field, but the junior Townsend responded in the bottom half of the inning with an RBI double that gave ECU the lead right back.

Senior Zach Houchins (4-for-4, 1 run) also had a huge night playing against his old, favorite team.

“Growing up, I wanted to play for [UNC], but now that I play against them, and we beat them – that’s really awesome,” he said.

The Pirates (25-17, 11-7 C-USA) return to action in Boca Rotan, Fl. this weekend to take on conference-foe Florida Atlantic for the first of four remaining conference series.