Marshall owned a comfortable four-run lead heading into the bottom of the ninth of game one, yet ECU nearly rallied to win. However, the Pirates still fell just short 9-8 despite scoring three runs in the ninth and advancing the tying run to third base.
Whatever pitching or defense game one lacked, game two made up for as the Pirates surrendered just four hits against the visiting Thundering Herd. Designated hitter Travis Watkins drove in the game's only run on a sacrifice fly to right field in the fourth inning. ECU held on to a 1-0 victory to split the double header.
"That was not indicative of who we are in that first game and they knew that," said Head Coach Billy Godwin. "I could sense that as soon as I walked into that locker room (between games), there was a lot of ‘we're going to get this.'
"There was a lot of pride and that's what I felt when I walked into that locker room and I'm very proud of my players bouncing back and winning a tough second game."
ECU (8-6, 1-1 Conference USA) third baseman Zach Houchins collected five hits – including two doubles in game two – and two RBI Saturday to lead the charge offensively. Drew Reynolds added three more hits, a trio of RBI and a pair of runs scored.
Although the Pirates followed their eight-run output with just one run in game two, they still booked 10 hits as a team in the win, which could signify ECU's bats finally starting to pick up steam.
"Learning to hit as a unit is something I think that is overlooked. You have to be able to hit with guys in scoring position … in order to score runs," said Drew Reynolds. "I think we've played better here lately and hopefully that carries over until tomorrow."
The first pitch of Sunday's rubber game is set for 1 p.m. with freshman right-hander Davis Kirkpatrick slated to take the hill for the Pirates.
Game one of Saturday's doubleheader featured the aces of both clubs; Jeff Hoffman for ECU and Josh King of Marshall (4-9, 1-1 C-USA).
A week after striking out a career-high 14 batters against Western Kentucky, Hoffman struggled with his command against the Herd. In 3 1/3 innings, he allowed a career-high seven walks, hit two batters, but still struck out six. Pirates pitchers granted 11 free passes in game one alone.
As for King, the right-hander tossed six frames before Marshall went to the bullpen. And in a game that lasted three hours, 23 minutes, the Herd threw six pitchers – ECU used four – in the first game alone, but it came down to the bottom of the ninth inning. Trailing 9-5, ECU rallied for three runs on RBI hits by Reynolds, Houchins and Luke Lowery and had the tying run 90 feet away on third base. However, the comeback fell short when Travis Watkins flew out to right field to end the game.
King (2-0) earned the win, while Hoffman (0-2) was awarded the loss.
The second game lacked the offense that game one provided, but starter Reid Love was sharp on the mound for ECU. In 5 1/3 frames of work, he allowed three hits and a pair of walks without a run, while striking out five Herd batters for his first win as a Pirate.
"I thought (Love) threw well. I thought he made good pitches when he had to. You don't just go out a shut anyone out in college baseball if you don't have good stuff," said Godwin.
Watkins' sacrifice fly-out that plated Ian Townsend in the bottom of the fourth marked the first time ECU had scored first in a game this season.
The Pirates had a golden opportunity to break the second game wide open in the bottom of seventh, but Ben Fultz, who had already notched two hits in game two, grounded out to second base with the bases loaded to end the frame.
Instead of going to Reynolds in the ninth inning to close the game, Godwin stayed with Williams, who struck out two in the frame for his first career save.
Now that conference play has started, Godwin said the level of intensity among his players had risen, although it has begun earlier than in past seasons.
"We want to win every game, but the big picure is if you win every series in this league, and it's a good league, you've had a great year and you have a chance to win the conference championship," he told reporters. "We still have that opportunity before us tomorrow and I'm excited about coming out here and going to get the W."