Pirates Rally for Walk-Off Win Over Wolfpack
College baseball in April doesn’t get much better than Tuesday night’s game between N.C. State and East Carolina at Clark-LeClair Stadium. With a season-high announced attendance of 3,281 as the backdrop, Kirk Morgan delivered a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning that scored Luke Lowery and sealed a 6-5 victory for the Pirates. In the immediate aftermath, Morgan was mobbed by his teammates and actually busted his lip open in the midst of the celebration. Moments later, the fans in “The Jungle” started chanted “MOR-GAN” and the sophomore utility player complied by leaping onto the left-field wall to greet them. “I wish I could re-live that because that’s something you’ll never forget,” Morgan said. “That’s why we come to ECU. That’s why you play the game of baseball, for stuff life that.” It didn’t seem like any of Morgan’s late-game theatrics would be necessary entering the ninth inning. With the Pirates leading 4-3, first-year ECU coach Cliff Godwin stuck with left-hander Nick Durazo, who was brought in to get the final out of the eighth. And who could blame him? Durazo had just allowed one earned run in his 16 appearances (0.34 ERA) this season going into Tuesday night. But Durazo, after barely missing outside on a 1-2 pitch with one out, couldn’t finish the job this time, though. On Durazo’s next pitch, pinch-hitter Chance Shepard deposited a fastball over the fence in left-center field for a go-ahead two-run homer. “Durazo has been so good for us,” Godwin said. “I told him that he can’t get down on himself. Those guys are probably worn out because we’ve used them so much recently.” It was N.C. State’s first lead of the game after its first two rallying cries only resulted in the Wolfpack knotting up the score. But in the bottom of the ninth, something inexplicably clicked for the Pirates, who entered the frame without a hit since the fifth inning. After getting ahead of N.C. State closer Joe O’Donnell in the count, Reid Love found a 2-1 fastball up in the zone that he muscled all the way to the warning track for his first career triple to lead off the inning. Two batters later, Luke Lowery drove Love in on a sacrifice fly ball that was mishandled by freshman outfielder Brock Deatherage, who was once upon a time held offers from both ECU’s football and baseball programs. This set the stage for Morgan, who plated the winning run by lacing a single fair down the first base-line. “I would challenge any baseball team in the country to say they have worked any harder than (us),” said Godwin. “The guys that we have on the team want to be here. They want to wear the purple and gold and they know what it means. I’m proud of them.” It was the Pirates’ second ninth-inning victory this season; joining the four-run, ninth-inning output they produced at Elon on March 14 for an 11-8 road win. ECU dropped its first meeting with N.C. State on March 3rd because it left nine runners on base and produced four hits in a 7-0 loss. Similar to that game at waterlogged Doak Field, the Pirates had just seven hits, while the Wolfpack booked nearly twice as many with 13, and stranded 12 runners on Tuesday night. However, unlike the loss it suffered in Raleigh, ECU managed to manufacture runs this time around. The Pirates — deadlocked at 2-all in the bottom of the sixth — scored runs in both the sixth and seventh innings without producing a hit. First, it was a pair of N.C. State errors at second base, which including one with two outs, that allowed Garrett Brooks to break the tie. Lowery then led off the seventh by drawing a walk and stealing second base, which set up consecutive well-executed sacrifice bunts to stretch ECU’s lead to 4-2. The Wolfpack finished with four errors while the Pirates didn’t commit any. N.C. State responded, once again, with a run in the eighth to trim the deficit to 4-3, before taking its first lead on Shepard’s ninth-inning home run. When meeting reporters after the game, Godwin announced a reward for Tuesday’s hero, Morgan. “He’s pitching tomorrow,” Godwin said. “That’s what a game-winning hit gets for you.” First pitch for ECU-Duke on Wednesday night is set for 6:30 p.m. at Clark-LeClair Stadium.
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