Coming in with high expectations, the marquee matchup in the Greenville Regional certainly delivered. Bolstered by a raucous crowd, East Carolina came up with big hits when they had to and their pitchers were able to bend but not break on their way to a 4-2 win over the Virginia Cavaliers. The story of the game is home runs and big-time outs. Unfortunately for the Hoos, East Carolina came up with a few more of each staying undefeated in the four-team regional.
ECU struck first in the bottom of the second. Reminiscent of Friday night, defensive miscues proved costly as Jacob Jenkins-Cowart reached on a throwing error by Griff O’Ferrall. He’d be retired on a fielders choice by Ben Newton, but that would set the table for Josh Moylan to launch a no-doubt home run to right centerfield. East Carolina put two more runners on, but Virginia starter Brian Gursky was able to get out of the inning with no further damage.
The teams traded scoreless innings until the top of the fifth when the Cavaliers were finally able to get on the board courtesy of a home run by Chris Newell. East Caroline got that run right back though on another no-doubt home run by Justin Wilcoxen.
Trailing 3-1 in the top of the seventh, Virginia forced East Carolina to bring on the American Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year, Carter Spivey. With Kyle Teel on first, Casey Saucke ripped a double down the right field line. That brought up Ethan Anderson who scored Teel on an RBI fielder’s choice. Spivey though would come up with a huge strikeout of Newell, stranding Saucke at third and preserving his team’s 3-2 lead.
And just like they did in the bottom of the fifth, the Pirates answered Virginia’s run in the bottom half of the seventh. Brandon Neeck started the inning with a four pitch walk to Alec Makarewicz and a pass ball moved him to second. Ryder Giles then sacrificed him over to third and Zach Agnos delivered an RBI sac fly to score Makarewicz. Neeck would get Lane Hoover on a bang-bang play to short, but not before the lead was extended back to two runs.
Virginia made things interesting in the top of the eighth when Alex Tappen reached on a two-out infield single. That set up a dramatic at bat as Jake Gelof nearly missed an extra base hit down the right field line. After Gelof fouled off a couple pitches, Spivey worked a full count and ultimately prevailed getting the Cavalier third baseman to fly out to left.
Finally, in the top of the ninth, Virginia threatened once again. Teel and Saucke singled and after Agnos came in to relieve Spivey, Ethan Anderson walked to load the bases. Newell got some good cuts in, but ultimately struck out. Max Cotier then battled, fouling off three pitches before striking out to end the threat and the game.
Gursky went 5.2 innings giving up three runs, two earned. He surrendered six hits and had two strikeouts taking the loss. Dylan Bowers came in pick up a big out in the sixth before giving way to Neeck. Neeck gave up an unearned run in two innings of work striking out two Pirates. At the plate, Saucke led the way with two hits while Newell drove in one of Virginia’s two runs on his big fly.
Virginia will take on Coastal Carolina Sunday at 1 p.m. with the Pirates awaiting the winner at 6 p.m. The Chanticlears were able to stay alive eliminating Coppin State 10-8 in Saturday’s first game.