EVENLY MATCHED: Pirates draw Cincinnati, tie series

Published 6:20 pm Sunday, May 1, 2016

MICHAEL PRUNKA | DAILY NEWS STARTING OFF: Jacob Wolfe gets warmed up before starting a game against UNC-Wilmington. Wolfe got the nod for Sunday’s rubber match and battled the Bearcats to an odd tie.

STARTING OFF: Jacob Wolfe gets warmed up before starting a game against UNC-Wilmington. Wolfe got the nod for Sunday’s rubber match and battled the Bearcats to an odd tie.

GREENVILLE — Mother Nature and travel arrangements put the squeeze on the East Carolina baseball team’s series-ending tie, 3-3, against Cincinnati Sunday afternoon.

From first pitch, a new inning was not to start after 4 p.m. due to Cincinnati’s return travel. After two innings, the Bearcats (21-22-1, 9-5-1 AAC) held a 1-0 lead and rain put an hour and 34-minute delay on the game. Things picked back up again at 2:05 p.m. and, somehow, things got stranger from there.

“There’s a rain delay and a time limit so everyone is kind of uncertain about everything,” said Charlie Yorgen. “I think as a whole we did well with competing through all the conditions and everything.”

The top of the eighth inning started at 3:51 p.m. and ECU (27-16-1, 8-6-1 AAC) held a 3-1 advantage. Sophomore pitcher Joe Ingle relieved Jacob Wolfe in the fourth inning and was deep into his outing as the typical closer.

In the eighth, he showed signs of fatigue. Ingle issued a walk to pinch hitter Cam Alldred and Manny Rodriguez made it a one-run game with his triple. Cole Murphy also pinch hit and walked to put runners on the corners with no outs. Godwin made the trip to the mound and called on freshman reliever Sam Lanier, who has thrown well this season out of the bullpen.

Lanier worked quickly and got two infield pop outs sandwiched between the third ECU walk of the inning to load the bases. Cincinnati leading hitter Connor McVey stepped in and got down 1-2 in the count. Lanier threw a slider on the outer edge of the plate and McVey weakly pushed the pitch to the right side, between the second baseman Yorgen and first baseman Kirk Morgan.

Morgan ranged to his right to make the play, but could not come up with it and when Yorgen fielded the ball there was no one left to cover first and a the tying run came home to score.

“Sam (Lanier) should be there (to cover first) and there could have been better communication between Charlie and Kirk,” Godwin said.

Lanier got Ryan Noda to ground out in the next at bat but the damage was done.

Well past the 4 p.m. cut off, ECU had its last ups and Turner Brown turned on the second pitch he saw, but it was caught on the warning track. Eric Tyler fouled out deep to left field and Zack Mozingo was robbed of a base hit by Cincy right fielder Devin Wenzel to end the game in a 3-3 tie after just four eighth-inning pitches. It was the first tie for ECU since 2012, a 4-4 tie against Houston on April 7.

“This one stings a lot,” Yorgen said after the game. “We battled, our pitchers battled. We get a lead and we blow it. In the end it hurts. They’re a good team, credit to them for fighting but we should have won that game.”

Things looked comfortable for ECU after a strong seventh inning offensively. Dwanya Williams-Sutton, who struck out in his only two plate appearances Saturday, hit a one-out single back up the middle off Bearcat reliever Jarod Yoakam. With a big shift on against Bryce Harman, the left-handed hitter pulled one straight to the shortstop Rodriguez, playing just to the right of second base. The ball tipped off his glove for an error and eluded second baseman Kyle Mottice. Yorgen followed and singled through the right side to score Williams-Sutton.

Parker Lamm made it a two-run lead with a sacrifice bunt to score pinch runner Brady Lloyd. Yorgen also attempted to come home from second, but was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.

Jacob Wolfe took the start for the Pirates and pitched on both ends of the rain delay. Things started poorly for Wolfe, who allowed a home run on the second pitch of the game to Kyle Mottice. From there, Wolfe cruised through four and 2/3 innings. He allowed just two more hits over the outing and gave the Pirates a shot to win.

Drawing the series against Cincinnati won’t hurt the Pirates much, standings wise, but the sting remains.

“To me personally, yeah (it feels like a loss),” Yorgen said. “I think we’re a better baseball team then them to be honest and we should have won that series.”