Pirates' Rally Falls Short

RALEIGH, N.C. – ECU (17-12) nearly erased a three-run deficit in the ninth inning against N.C. State (17-11), but fell short 3-2 Wednesday at Doak Field.

The East Carolina baseball team nearly found the self-affirming victory it has been desperately seeking against a high-quality opponent Wednesday night.

Trailing N.C. State 3-0 in the ninth inning, the Pirates strung together four hits to set up Zach Houchins with two outs, the bases loaded and the deficit trimmed to just one run.

With the game hanging in the balance, Houchins lined a low-driving fly ball into shallow centerfield that was snared by a fully-extended Jake Fincher to end the game. The Wolfpack survived 3-2 at Doak Field to end ECU's seven-game winning streak.

"The guy made a great play at the end of the game. We competed at the end like we should have, but we didn't compete really in the middle innings," said ECU coach Billy Godwin. "I was really proud of their effort … This team is not going to quit."

However, it didn't have to be this way. The Pirates (17-12) actually outhit the Wolfpack (17-11), but stranded 10 runners on the base paths, which proved to be costly.

In fact, they reached five baserunners in the first two innings, but could not cross any of them to score. With two on in both frames, N.C. State starter Logan Jurnigan dialed up inning-ending strikeouts to keep the game scoreless.

ECU outfielder Dylan Brown had a golden opportunity in the top of the fourth with bases loaded, but Wolfpack reliever Ryan Williamson struck him out to end the threat.

"We had chances early in the game to put the pressure on them, instead of the pressure being on us," said Houchins. "They took advantage of it, put the pressure on us and put our backs against the wall."

After getting out the jam, Williamson (1-0) pitched four more flawless innings for the Wolfpack – allowing just one baserunner – for his first career victory. The freshman southpaw had pitched just three innings this season heading into the game.

Despite Williamson's dominance, N.C. State coach Elliott Avent turned to Andrew Woeck to pitch the ninth inning. Following a strikeout, the Pirates booked three consecutive singles, including Garrett Brooks' RBI single to plate Luke Lowery.

Brown followed suit with another RBI single to score Charlie Yorgen and prompted Avent to pull Woeck. He brought in lefty Will Gilbert, who hit the first batter he faced – Drew Reynolds – to load the bases for Houchins. Then, the Pirates' best hitter, statistically, lined out to end the rally.

"I should have hit it harder, honestly. I thought it had a chance to drop, it didn't and (Fincher) made a great play on me," Houchins said.

Freshman Preston Palmeiro, the son of former Major League Baseball star Rafeal, provided most of the offense for N.C. State – going 3-for-3 at the dish with a run scored and an RBI.

ECU has now lost four straight games against its rival from Raleigh, but will get another shot at the Wolfpack next Wednesday in Greenville. However, the Pirates will first travel to Houston for a three-game series with Rice this weekend.

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