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ECU baseball wins series in dramatic fashion to take second in conference

GREENVILLE — No. 9 East Carolina overcame an improbable five-run deficit in the later innings of play Sunday to beat the University of Cincinnati 6-5 and win a crucial American Athletic Conference weekend series over the Bearcats.

The Pirates earned seven walks and produced four hits over the final three frames Sunday, capping off the comeback with a Connor Litton walk-off, two-run single on a 0-2 pitch count. The win allows ECU to stay in the running to host a regional in the postseason. ECU improved to 37-13, 13-8 AAC and claimed sole possession of second place in the AAC standings, while Cincinnati dropped to sixth in the conference with a 26-24, 11-10 AAC record.

“There were a lot of times where this team could have packed it in, like when Packard lined out into a double play in the seventh, but we just kept fighting. That’s what makes this one special,” ECU head coach Cliff Godwin said.

ECU dropped Friday night’s game one, 4-3, after giving up two home runs in the top of the ninth inning and failing to produce in the bottom of the inning. The Pirates left 12 men on base, which proved to be the difference maker. Ryan Ross picked up the loss for the Pirates dropped to 1-4 on the season. He allowed two earned runs on three hits in a relief appearance for starter Chris Holba. Holba exited the game with ECU and Cincinnati tied 2-2 after throwing 92 pitches in six innings of work.

On Saturday, the bats worked again for the Pirates, as ECU mustered 14 hits in a lopsided 13-6 victory over the Bearcats.  ECU hit five home runs in the contest, including another leadoff home run by Bryant Packard, and two home runs from Spencer Brickhouse. The Pirates found themselves up 4-0 after three innings, but nearly squandered the lead. Cincinnati cut ECU’s lead to 6-5, thanks to a four-run outburst in the top of the sixth inning. But ECU matched the Bearcats in the bottom of the same inning with four runs of its own to put the game away.

Packard has now hit safely in 28 straight games, matching ECU’s record for consecutive games with a hit, tying Steve Side who got to the same mark in 1987. He had five hits throughout the series and now leads ECU with 21 multi-hit games this season.

Brickhouse and Dwanya Williams-Sutton also improved their on-base streak to 20 and 16 games, respectively, on Sunday. ECU now has the most wins since 2004, when it went 43-7, and walked off for the second consecutive game played on Mother’s Day.

The Pirates return to action today with a home game against Campbell at 6:30 p.m., before hitting the road to wrap up the regular season with a weekend series against the University of Connecticut.