Missed Opportunities Prove Costly for Bucs

GREENVILLE, N.C. — ECU (9-6) amassed 16 hits against Campbell (14-2) Tuesday, but its nine stranded base runners, coupled with a six-run sixth inning for the Camels, proved costly in a 9-4 loss at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

Things appeared to be ho hum for the Pirates in their midweek date with the Campbell Camels on Tuesday night.

Entering the game on a season-best four-game winning streak, East Carolina booked 12 hits by the end of the fifth inning while its starter, right-hander Jimmy Boyd, was cruising along, having only allowing just four hits up to that point.

However, an old problem reared its ugly head, once again, and came back to bite the Pirates. Despite collecting 12 hits, ECU owned a less-than-commanding 3-1 lead after stranding seven runners on base and Campbell made the Pirates pay in the top of the sixth.

By way of a leadoff double, a hit-by-pitch and a single, the Camels had the bases loaded with no outs — and went on to score six runs in the inning on their way to a 9-4 victory at Clark-LeClair Stadium. But not before the Pirates offered them some help.

With the bases loaded, Campbell (14-2) cleanup hitter Kyle Leady sent a ground ball to the right side of the infield, but after second baseman Charlie Yorgen fielded the ball, nobody had gone over to cover first base, which resulted in a run. Next, shortstop Hunter Allen mishandled a grounder to allow the tying run to score.

Then, with the bags still full, Cole Hallum delivered the crushing blow: taking a Boyd slider over the fence in left-center field for grand slam, effectively making it 7-3 Camels and subsequently, changing the game.

“When you give up a grand slam, it’s different,” first-year ECU (9-6) coach Cliff Godwin said of the team’s mood after the decisive sequence. “It’s a kick in the gut when that happens.”

Boyd was on the mound for the entire sixth inning as fifth-year coach Cliff Godwin didn’t replace him until after the frame. The junior surrendered eight hits in his second career start, which lasted 84 pitches.

Luke Lowery, ECU’s top power-hitter, was a late addition to the lineup, returning from a stiff back that has forced him to miss the last five games. The Pirates’ pregame batting practice was Lowery’s first cage session in a week, but he felt good enough afterwards to approach Godwin in his office, asking to let him play.

However, not even the junior slugger’s team-leading fifth home run of the season — which trimmed Campbell’s lead to 8-4 in the seventh inning and capped his 3-for-5 performance at the plate — was enough to will the Pirates from behind.

The damage was already done.

“We got to put the nail in the coffin,” said Lowery of the Pirates’ struggles batting with runners in scoring position. “We swung the bats well, but we didn’t get the big hit we needed tonight.”

ECU finished with 16 hits and left nine runners stranded on base, which included at least one in each of the first five innings.

In the first inning, sophomore Eric Tyler bounced out to the pitcher despite Lowery slapping a two-out double into the left-field corner to bring two runners in scoring position.

ECU opened scoring in the second inning with two runs on a bases-loaded sac-fly that was followed by a Campbell throwing error. But in the bottom of the third, the Pirates had runners on first and third base with one out when Reid Love rolled into an inning-ending double play.

Then came the costly fifth inning that preceded the Camels’ six-run explosion in the sixth. Looking to add on its 3-1 lead, ECU threaded together three straight singles that chased Campbell starter Grant Yost out of the game.

And there sat the game the game on a platter for the Pirates as the bags were full and there were no outs. However, catcher Travis Watkins lined out to shortstop Anthony Lopez, who caught Lowery off of second base for a double play. Still with runners on the corners, Love couldn’t salvage anything out of the once promising inning, grounding out to Lopez at short to end the frame.

“That was the game,” said Godwin. “It wasn’t when they scored the six runs. It wasn’t that inning because you had a chance to put them away and we didn’t put them away. We’ve got to be able to do that and we’re good enough offensively to be able to do that.”

ECU will turn around to host UNC Greensboro Wednesday afternoon at 3 p.m. The game was originally scheduled for 6 p.m., but was moved up due to expected rainfall in the forecast. Junior left-hander Nick Durazo will start for the Pirates.

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