Pirates Come Alive Late For Series-Tying Win

GREENVILLE, N.C. — ECU's (16-7) bats were quiet for most of the afternoon, but a six-run eighth inning paced the the Pirates to a 9-3 victory against VCU (10-10).

For the second consecutive day, East Carolina’s bats were quiet for the majority of the game against the Virginia Commonwealth Rams.

Entering the bottom of the eighth inning, all the Pirates had to show were two hits — both by third baseman Jackson Mims — yet were still deadlocked in a 3-3 tie because of terrific bend-but-don’t-break pitching from the Pirates’ staff, which scattered eight hits on Saturday afternoon.

ECU opened the eighth by drawing two walks and a hit-by-pitch, loading the bases for Eric Tyler with no outs. Looking for the team’s first hit since the fourth inning, Tyler capitalized on the opportunity — lacing a two-run double into the left-field corner.

It was the big hit that opened the floodgates for the Pirates, who booked hits on the next three at-bats on their way to a six-run eighth inning. With a 9-3 victory, ECU (16-7) knotted up the weekend series to set up a rubber match at Clark-LeClair Stadium on Sunday.

“It was a frustrating day. It’s been a frustrating two days,” Tyler said of the two competitive games with the Rams. “But to play like that and hit like that the last two innings, that’s a huge bonus going into tomorrow to try and win the series.”

Pirates’ left-hander Jacob Wolfe allowed two runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings before giving way to righty Joe Ingle, who escaped a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning with a 3-2 ECU lead still intact.

First-year ECU coach Cliff Godwin then moved Kirk Morgan from shortstop to the mound for the seventh inning and the right-hander struggled with his command initially. Morgan hit two batsmen and allowed a hit to load the bases for cleanup hitter Vimeal Machin with two outs.

Morgan then did his part, inducing Machin to a ground ball to first base, but Bryce Harman mishandled it to allow the tying run to score. However, rather than letting his composure or the tie slip away, Morgan resettled and got another ground ball to end the threat with the score still tied, 3-all.

“The reason we put (Morgan) out there ... is because we’ve got confidence in him. He doesn’t get rattled,” said Godwin. “He’s the guy our guys have a lot of confidence in at the backend of the bullpen.”

Early in the game, neither team produced a hit until Mims’ leadoff single off of VCU’s Heath Dwyer in the bottom of the third. Three at-bats later, Parker Lamm plated Mims from third on an RBI ground out to second base.

The Rams quickly responded in the fourth inning. First, Matt Davis notched a two-out single to represent VCU’s (10-10) first base runner of the game. On the next at-bat, cleanup hitter Vimeal Machin took Wolfe deep off the top of the wall in right-center field to score Davis and subsequently, knot the game up 1-all.

Mims broke the tie, once again, with a two-run push bunt to first base in the home half of the fourth; setting up the back-and-forth finish in the latter frames.

“It was probably ugly to a baseball fan early,” Godwin said. “But I pulled the guys up in the eighth inning and said ‘Hey look, it’s a tie game. There are some negative thoughts going through some guy’s heads. We’ve got to think positively. Let’s win the game right now and play our best baseball in the last two innings.’”

The Pirates earned four hits in the eighth inning and was helped by two pivotal errors by the Rams, who finished with seven errors for the afternoon. First pitch for Sunday’s rubber match at Clark-LeClair Stadium is set for 1 p.m.

“It’s all about winning the series,” said Mims. “If you win every series, you’re going to be in a regional. That’s what coach tells us. We’re going to play hard and that’s what we’re going to go after.”

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