ECU responds from opening game loss, advance to finals

Published 5:31 pm Monday, June 3, 2019

GREENVILLE — In what has been a roller coaster of emotion in the last few days at Clark-LeClair stadium, the East Carolina University Pirates found themselves in the regional finals.

On Friday night, an array of severe thunderstorms floated across the area in a tie ball game in the ninth inning of the Campbell vs. North Carolina State game. They would end up finishing at noon on Saturday.

Rather than ECU play a game immediately after its conclusion, they would wait until 4 p.m. to start their game against Quinnipiac. However, Mother Nature was not having it. Another heavy rain shower settled over the stadium and delayed the game, yet again, for two hours.

First pitch came at 6:06 p.m., and the Bobcats were amped to swing the bats. They scored two runs in the first inning, with a RBI-ground out and a solo homerun deep over the left field fence, but the Pirates answered back.

Bryant Packard would get it started with a single to right field. Turner Brown hit a ball back up the middle off of Bobcats pitcher Chris Enns’ backside, and an errant throw to first resulted in runners on first and third with no outs. Alec Burleson then stepped to the plate and singled home Packard. Brown would steal third and scored off of Jake Washer’s RBI-ground out to shortstop to tie the game at 2-apiece.

THREE-WAY PLAYER: Pirates right fielder, first baseman, and relief pitcher Alec Burleson hits a double to score a run on Saturday night against Quinnipiac. (Mitchell Thomas / Daily News)

The Pirates used six pitchers in the ball game after Jake Kuchmaner was given the hook in the second inning. In the seventh, the Bobcats hit a two-run homerun to take the lead for good.

The Pirates threatened in the bottom of the eighth after Bryson Worrell hit a solo homerun, and they put the tying run on second in the ninth inning but a groundout ended the game, 5-4.

“We’re going to have to flush this tonight and play for our season (on Sunday),” Packard said after the game. “We’ve dealt with a lot of adversity. I have full confidence in the whole team in an elimination game.”

That confidence shined through. On Sunday, ECU would need to beat N.C. State to keep their season alive, and they did. A six-run third inning for the Pirates would put the nail in the coffin for the Wolfpack’s season, going on to win, 9-2. The win set up a rematch against Quinnipiac at 9 p.m. on Sunday night.

This time, it was a different outcome. With their backs against the wall, the Pirates jumped ahead early. Washer hit three homeruns on the day, two against the Bobcats in the nightcap. Packard hit his first homerun since April 27, and Worrell homered for the second day in a row en route to a 13-3 victory.

Now, the Pirates will have to win two games over Campbell University to advance to the super regionals for the first time since 2016. Game one began at noon on Monday, game two at 7 p.m.