The game was played under an overcast sky throughout and although there was no rainfall on the playing surface, there might as well have been. Both teams combined for seven errors – UNC had five – but ECU left-hander Reid Love was the difference.
The six-foot junior pitched a complete-game shutout, allowing just five hits without walking a batter and striking out a career-high seven. However, sitting at 102 pitches heading into the ninth inning with senior Ryan Williams warmed in the bullpen, Love assured Head Coach Billy Godwin he would finish the deal.
"I know I've had some struggles with him pulling me early sometimes," Love (4-3) said, referencing his April 12 start at Old Dominion in which he didn't record an out. "I told him I wanted this game and wanted to finish it."
The Pirates (28-18) collected 11 hits against the Tar Heels (27-19), but crossed just one run to score in the top of the seventh inning. With Garrett Brooks on second base, freshman Charlie Yorgen lined a one-out single up the middle to open and finish Tuesday night's scoring.
ECU left 12 baserunners stranded in the game, but after it took the lead, Love settled in. And instead of feeling unsure of himself with a slim margin for error, the one-run advantage only intensified his focus when it counted most.
"When you don't get the run support, you feel like you had to hold them there," he told reporters on the field afterward. "After we scored that run, I felt like I really needed to lock in there and really command everything the best I can."
It shouldn't be overstated what this win means for a program that has struggled so mightily in Chapel Hill. Don't forget, last week's victory in Greenville was the Pirates' first against UNC in five years, snapping a six-game losing streak.
Then, of course, Tuesday's result is even more significant when it comes to ECU attempting to build its resume and keep its slim at-large hopes alive.
"It's been a tough road for my team here," said Godwin. "Coming here and winning is very good. North Carolina … is arguably the best program in the last 10 years. It's special. It's special to our guys."
Taylore Cherry, UNC's towering 6-foot-8 right-hander, attacked the strike zone early on for the Tar Heels – 9 of his first 10 pitchers were strikes – and it wasn't until the second inning that the Pirates took advantage. After piecing consecutive singles to begin the frame, Bryce Harman was told to swing away, rather than bunt, and grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.
Then, UNC escaped the frame unscathed on a grounder to second base, where Alex Raburn's throw just beat ECU's speedy centerfielder Brooks down the line at first base. Godwin wasn't pleased at all with the call and let the first-base umpire know it on his way to the dugout.
The Tar Heels reached a baserunner to third base in the bottom of the inning when Tom Zengel's seemingly innocent single to right field evaded ECU's Ian Townsend and allowed Zengel to advance two extra bases. However, Raburn couldn't cash in – popping up to second base to end the threat.
Townsend's error was just one of the five combined errors that occurred in the first four innings of Tuesday's tilt, which mirrored the ugly overcast weather conditions. But despite recording hits in the first six innings and being given extra help on the Tar Heels' three errors, ECU couldn't cross a run to score.
But it was in the seventh that the Pirates at last scored the game's lone run. Following Cherry's (0-2) exit, Yorgen notched his game-winning RBI single up the middle off reliever Trevor Kelley, who just come on in relief of Cherry.
"(Kelley) threw me two sliders to start and got one over for a strike. It was a 1-1 count, and I was just looking for another one and he kind of left one up," said Yorgen.
The Pirates return home to begin a three-game series against Florida International. First pitch at Clark-LeClair Stadium is set for 6 p.m.