No. 2 ECU ousted from AAC tournament

Published 3:21 pm Thursday, May 26, 2016

CLEARWATER, Fla. — After entering the American Athletic Conference tournament as the defending champions and the No. 2 seed, the East Carolina baseball team was eliminated from the tournament in its first two games this week.

The Pirates dropped a 4-2 contest Wednesday against South Florida, the tournament’s No. 7 seed, and fell to No. 6 Memphis Thursday, 5-4. Jimmy Boyd (7-5) was tagged with the loss as he lasted just 2 1/3 innings and surrendered five runs (four earned) on five hits while walking one.

The Tigers jumped on Boyd early and often. In the first, Zach Schritenthal led things off with a single. Two batters later, Darien Tubbs lifted a 1-1 pitch over the wall to give Memphis a 2-0 lead.

After tying the game in the top of the second, the leadoff man reached again for the Tigers in the bottom half of the frame. A Charlie Yorgen error allowed Chris Carrier to reach and eventually come around to score the unearned run off a Jason Santana groundout to the right side of the infield.

Jake Little made it three consecutive innings with the lead off man reaching base and a wild pitch moved him to second. Boyd walked Tubbs and threw his second wild pitch of the inning to the next better to put two in scoring position. Jacob Elliot capitalized and notched a two-RBI single to right field on a full count to finish the scoring for Memphis and make it a 5-2 game.

The Pirates fought back and came within two in the fifth as Travis Watkins plated Parker Lamm and kept the bases loaded with a one-out single off Memphis reliever Matt Ferguson. Garrett Brooks followed and grounded into a double play to end the threat and the inning. Two three-up, three-down frames followed for the ECU offense before Kirk Morgan scored Watkins off a fielder’s choice that took out Eric Tyler as he tried to reach second.

Zach Mozingo struck out in the next at bat to end the frame. ECU went quietly in the ninth and Memphis lived to fight another day. The loss eliminated ECU (34-21-1, 15-8-1 AAC) from the tournament.

Wednesday morning, the Pirates dropped their third game of the season against the Bulls. Both Evan Kruczynski and USF starter Brandon Lawson rolled through the first six innings without allowing a run. The pair faltered in the seventh as each opposing offense plated two runs in the seventh.

After a quiet eighth inning by relievers, ECU head coach Cliff Godwin returned Matt Bridges to the mound to start the ninth. Bridges started the frame with a walk and the next batter advanced Duke Stunkel Jr. to second with a sacrifice. Godwin turned to Joe Ingle and the sophomore walked the first two batters he faced to load the bases.

Ingle ran a full count to the next batter but had the same result as he walked in a run from third, charged to Bridges, to break the 2-2 tie. After recording the second out of the inning on a sac fly, Ingle again walked in a run, this time charged to himself, to make it a 4-2 game. Sam Lanier came in from the bullpen and got a strikeout with the bases loaded to end the frame.

Parker Lamm singled and Yorgen walked in the ninth, but the pair were stranded to end the game and the Pirates moved into the loser’s bracket of the tournament.

The Pirates will learn their postseason fate Monday as ESPNU will air the NCAA Regional Selection Show at noon. ECU will have a watch party open to the public beginning at 11:30 a.m. at Mellow Mushroom in Greenville.