Walk-off hit lifts Pirates past Golden Eagles

It took late-inning dramatics for ECU to win its fourth consecutive weekend series in Conference USA-play against the league-leading Southern Miss Golden Eagles.

GREENVILLE—East Carolina solidified itself as a legitimate contender in the Conference USA regular season race when they hosted league-leading Southern Miss in Sunday's rubber game at Clark LeClair Stadium.

As he has done on multiple occasions throughout the Pirate's tear down the stretch, first baseman Chase McDonald came through in the clutch with a walk-off hit in the bottom of the ninth inning to clinch ECU's fourth straight series-win, 3-2.

In the seventh inning, McDonald hit his eighth home run of the season to give ECU (26-22, 10-8 Conference USA) a 2-0 advantage before Southern Miss (25-21, 14-7 C-USA) got off the mat for a pair of runs to tie the game in top of the eighth.

"A couple weeks or a month ago, we were fighting for that guy (to step up), but now it's Chase (McDonald), Zach Houchins, Drew Reynolds. There's a different guy every day," said head coach Billy Godwin. "It was Chase's day today."

In the ninth inning, Reynolds, who extended his hits-streak to 12 games earlier in the afternoon, and Houchins strung together back-to-back singles to give the Pirate's runners on first and second base.

Jay Cannon came on to pinch-run for Reynolds, setting the stage for McDonald. On a 0-1 pitch, McDonald slipped a seeing-eye groundball past two Southern Miss infielders and into left field, scoring Cannon from second base to end the game.

"The ball hadn't bounced our way the whole weekend, it seemed like, and when I hit that ball, I said that one's got to go through and it did," said McDonald of his decisive RBI single.

Written off by many after its slow start to the year and an abysmal record in the middle of the week, ECU has now won nine of its last eleven games and sits in the No. 5 slot of the league standings with six games left before the C-USA tournament.

"We come in everyday and get our work in. We believe in us and we don't really care what everybody says about us on the outside," said catcher Luke Lowery.

Southern Miss right-hander Conor Fisk kept ECU batters at bay after surrendering a pair of hits in the first inning. Fisk retired the next thirteen batters he faced, bleeding into the fifth inning.

In the fifth, Lowery ended the streak by connecting with the first pitch he saw, a fastball, for his fourth home run of the season. McDonald followed suit with his solo-blast in the seventh inning to make it 2-0. Two of the Pirates first four hits of the game were deep-fly's on Sunday.

Following their four-error performance in the Pirate's extra-innings loss Saturday, ECU's defense picked up right-hander Ryan Williams on Sunday. In his seven and two-thirds innings of work, Williams allowed ten hits without giving up a run and it wasn't until the Golden Eagles notched back-to-back hits in the eighth inning, that Godwin gave the ball to redshirt-junior Brett Mabry.

"Yesterday, we all know what happened, but today, we were really focused on defense. Going out there and making sure we were making the plays, keeping the ball in front, turning-two, everything that we could," said McDonald.

Mabry couldn't get Williams off the hook and Southern Miss tied the game on right fielder Mason Robbins' two-run double. Mabry (3-2) earned the win, while Fisk (4-2) went the entire way and received the loss.

ECU will not have a midweek game with the student-athletes completing their spring semester and final exams. They will be back in action Friday at Marshall for the first game of a weekend series.

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