Pirates Walk Off For Second Straight Night
It was Déjà vu for the East Carolina baseball team on Wednesday night. After the Pirates beat their in-state, ACC rival from Raleigh the night before in walk-off fashion, it was Luke Lowery driving home freshman Cam Snow in the bottom of the 10th inning for the game-winning run to knock off Duke 3-2 at Clark-LeClair Stadium. Lowery’s walk-off hit ended a midweek game — ECU’s (26-16) fifth game in six days — that featured 12 pitchers and lasted three hours and 35 minutes. “Walk-off victories, they are just indescribable,” said Lowery, while toweling off some of the shaving cream pie that his teammates served up for him when the junior approached reporters after the game. “When you’re the guy getting the hit and the RBI, it’s just a fantastic feeling.” Snow was brought in to pinch-run after Reid Love walked with one out in the 10th inning. As Snow took a few strides towards first base, first-year ECU coach Cliff Godwin walked over to him and put his arm around his neck. Godwin's message was simple. “Don’t get picked off,” Snow said was all Godwin told him. As simple as it sounded, what followed was a lengthy cat-and-mouse game between Snow and Duke (22-18) right-hander Kenny Koplove, who played the first eight innings at shortstop. Much to the chagrin of the restless announced crowd of 3,271, Koplove threw over to first base several times and stepped off the rubber frequently too. Nevertheless, Snow still got a great jump out of his break towards second base to steal a bag with one out and more importantly, give the Pirates their first base runner in scoring position since the fourth inning. “It was gut-wrenching,” Snow said. “I knew I had to take that bag.” Following Koplove’s careful walk around ECU cleanup hitter Eric Tyler, Lowery dug in having gone 0-for-8 at the dish over the span of the Pirates’ last three games. On Lowery’s first at-bat on Wednesday, Duke centerfielder Evan Dougherty made a spectacular over-the-shoulder basket catch to Rob Lowery of extra bases. That gem marked the first of about a half dozen notable plays — mostly occurring in the infield — that Duke’s defense made against the Pirates. So when Lowery lined Koplove’s first offering — a slider — into the air to second base, Snow held up briefly. Then once he saw the ball escape second baseman Andy Perez’s reach, Snow jetted around third and slid head first into home plate just ahead of the throw from center field for the winning run. It was the break Lowery felt he needed; better yet, that he had deserved. “It’s kind of been like the last couple games I’ve felt like I’ve hit balls right at people pretty hard,” Lowery said. “There was a little doubt (on the game-winning hit), but that was the baseball gods speaking to you right there.” Kirk Morgan, the hero in the Pirates' walk-off win on Tuesday, started on the mound Wednesday and tossed four innings before giving way to sophomore Ross Gardner, who allowed three hits and recorded just one out before Godwin pulled him. At that point, the score was 2-2, where it stayed unchanged until the 10th inning. In a bullpen game for both teams, it was the Pirates’ tandem of David Lucroy and Jimmy Boyd that finished the job. Lucroy, a typical weekend starter who made his first relief appearance of the season on Wednesday, permitted one hit in three innings while striking out three Blue Devils before giving way to Boyd in the ninth. Boyd (5-7) retired all six of the batters he faced in the game’s final two innings to earn the win. “We had a lot of guys step up,” Boyd said. “Everybody’s answered the call whenever their number is called … It’s crunch time.” Wednesday's meeting between the Pirates and Blue Devils marked the first time the two programs have met since 2007. ECU has now won an unprecedented 13 consecutive games in the series dating back to 1998 — when Cliff Godwin was a redshirt freshman at ECU. The Pirates (6-6 American) will begin a pivotal three-game series in Greenville against the UCF Knights (5-7) on Friday night. Despite being tied for sixth in the American Conference standings, UCF received votes in the USA Today Top 25 poll this week.
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