Rain delay helps sink Pirates and end the season

Published 7:36 pm Monday, June 4, 2018

GREENVILLE — In control of the game, East Carolina let up nine runs in the fifth inning following a lengthy rain delay and lost 9-7 to the University of North Carolina-Wilmington Sunday night, knocking the Pirates out of the NCAA Greenville Regional and ending their season.

Everything was going perfect for ECU (44-18) in the first elimination game it faced in the regional. Starting pitcher Jake Agnos was rolling and the Pirates held a 3-0 lead after the top of the second, but a familiar foe disrupted the flow of the tournament games for the second straight day Sunday afternoon.

After a five hour and nine minute weather delay that began in the bottom of the fourth inning, ECU’s hopes of making it to the regional’s championship game came and went with the storm. Agnos had struck out six of the fourteen batters he faced and was still holding UNCW (39-22) scoreless, but the delay ended his day on the mound. With one out remaining in the fourth, play was halted, the tarp was brought out and fans were about to witness the end of the Pirates’ season.

“Once it got past an hour, hour and a half, I told him he wasn’t going back out there. Of course Jake wanted to, but look at him today. Jake Agnos has got a career after ECU baseball and I’m not going to sacrifice Jake Agnos’ career or health to win a game,” ECU head coach Cliff Godwin said.

So, Godwin turned to freshman Zach Barnes who has been decent in his relief appearances this season. However, Barnes would need to be better than decent to keep hold of the Pirates’ lead and he did the complete opposite. Although not tagged with the loss, he had the worst appearance on the mound for ECU in the game. He pitched just 0.1 of an inning and allowed four earned runs on four hits, facing just five batters. It took just fifteen pitches for Barnes to erase the Pirates’ five-run lead and turn it into one.

Senior Ryan Ross then entered the game and was given the task of damage control. However, he uncharacteristically struggled and was tagged with the loss in his 0.2 inning of work, as he gave up two runs on two hits.

“We were going with relievers when I could’ve probably brought Tyler Smith in, but I was holding Tyler for tomorrow,” Godwin said. “If you want me to be candid with you, I was hoping (Agnos) could go three or four innings and start tomorrow. It didn’t work out that way. That’s the way I’ll go into every game the rest of my coaching career. We just had a rough inning and couldn’t get out of it.”

For the Seahawks, Landen Roupp got the start. The Pirates jumped on Roupp early, and kicked him off the mound after just one inning. Henry Ryan, the second relief pitcher used by UNCW on Sunday, picked up the win for the Seahawks. In one inning he allowed two earned runs and a walk, which was was good enough to seal the deal against ECU.

Shortstop Turner Brown started the scoring for the Pirates in the top of the second as he hit a two-RBI double to score Connor Litton and Alec Burleson. Brown came around to score later in the inning thanks to a RBI-single from Dwanya Williams-Sutton.

After the delay, ECU added two more runs in the top of the fifth inning on an Andrew Henrickson single and a Seahawk throwing error. Henrickson later scored the final run of the inning after Burleson reached first on a sacrifice bunt that was not thrown home in time to get Henrickson out.

It looked as if the Pirates were going to continue clobbering UNCW like it did in the team’s first game in the regional that saw the Pirates win 16-7. But the bottom of the fifth is an inning ECU will not forget for a long time.

UNCW put nine runs on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fifth, grabbing a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. The Seahawks were 0-3 against the Pirates this season, but when it mattered most, their one victory against the club on the year is all they needed.

“Like our players said, ECU is one of if not the best clubs we have played all season. They can do so many things offensively to put pressure on you,” UNCW head coach Mark Scalf said. “It forces you to really stay dialed in and play clean defensively. You also have to make pitches. We left some balls over the plate today and they didn’t miss. We were able to get ahead in counts early which really helped.”

Making it to the championship game, UNCW played its third elimination game of the tournament Monday afternoon, but lost 8-4 to the University of South Carolina. The Gamecocks went 3-0 in the Regional and will take the field in the next round of playoffs, the Super Regional, in the upcoming days.