GREENVILLE, N.C. — Just one inning removed from blowing a 5-2 lead, the Pirates battled back and took a 6-5, tenth inning victory over conference foe No. 24 UCF.
When Hunter Allen crossed home in the tenth inning of Friday night’s conference matchup with No. 24 Central Florida, East Carolina found itself in a familiar position.
Eric Tyler’s lone hit of the night proved to be the biggest as his single up the middle knocked Allen home from third base, propelling the Pirates to a 6-5 win and their third straight walk-off victory.
“It’s good to be on the other side of it again for the third straight game,” Tyler said. “It’s a lot better than walking out of here losing. We never quit, we never gave up.”
Much like Wednesday night’s 6-5 ninth-inning victory over N.C. State, the Pirates (27-16, 7-6 American Athletic Conference) dispatched the Knights (26-17, 5-8 AAC) by the same score. This time around, however, ECU needed an extra frame to come out on top and win its fourth straight game.
“It’s always exciting, it’s a new guy every day,” Allen said. “I joked in the locker room this morning and told the guys ‘hey let’s try to win one in regular innings today’. We didn’t do that but it’s still pretty fun.”
It was the walk-off that almost wasn’t as the Knights almost capped a comeback victory of their own thanks to a three-run top of the ninth highlighted by James Vasquez’s two-run home run down the right field line off of Pirate reliever Nick Durazo.
“A win is a win,” ECU coach Cliff Godwin said. “But no, you don’t draw it up like that, to blow a three-run lead in the ninth. I’m just proud of the guys. They persevered through giving up the lead and fought back.”
ECU was chomping at the bit in the home half of the ninth as the Pirates had runners on second and third with no outs thanks to consecutive singles by Luke Lowery and Kirk Morgan.
However, an ill-advised base running blunder got Lowery thrown out at the plate and UCF reliever Harrison Hukari eventually wiggled his way out of the jam and sent the game to extras.
In extras, Durazo settled down and pitched a perfect top of the tenth, setting up the eventual victory and earning a win of his own.
“Every guy on the roster was in the dugout saying we just have to keep it up,” Allen said of rebounding after the blown lead. “Give all the credit to the coaches because they were behind us pushing us the while day.”
Perhaps overshadowed by the exciting finish, starter Evan Kruczynski had one of his best outings of the year. The sophomore lefty notched a career-high 10 strikeouts and when he exited the game in the eighth inning, his team was holding a 5-2 lead.
“(Kruczynski) was just getting ahead,” Godwin said. “He missed a few spots early but once he settled in he was very good.”He finished having allowed 10 hits and two earned runs and out-pitched one of the