Pirates Claim Series Against No. 24 Knights

GREENVILLE, N.C. -- Despite some ninth-inning drama, East Carolina hung on to defeat No. 24 Central Florida 3-2 Saturday afternoon.

For the fifth time in as many outings, East Carolina won a one-run nail biter. This time it was a 3-2 victory over American Athletic Conference foe Central Florida. This time it yielded a third conference series win for ECU.

The Pirates (28-16, 8-6 AAC) led 3-0 heading into the top of the ninth. It wasn’t an overwhelming lead by any means, but after three straight walk-off wins, the breathing room felt mighty comfortable.

Going into the inning, pitcher Reid Love had thrown eight scoreless innings, conceding five hits and fanning eight batters. He popped up the lead-off batter and struck out the following one.

Then he began to run out of steam. He walked the third batter and gave up a single to the next. Joe Ingle came in for relief, but gave up an RBI single to Logan Heiser that plated Derrick Salberg.

“Walking that guy, I can’t do that,” Love said. “Then leaving a changeup up and giving them a hit.”

A close call on a fielder’s choice allowed the Knights to load the bases. Kyle Marsh scored on a wild pitch, making it a one-run affair. With the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position, Ingle didn’t waver and struck out lead-off batter Dylan Moore to win the game.

“Joe came in and did a good job,” said skipper Cliff Godwin. “It’s big for him. He gets in those jams all the time. Sometimes he creates them, but he always gets out of them. He’s got tremendous poise for a freshman. There aren’t many freshmen in the country that are going out there in those kinds of jams.”

Garrett Brooks — facing a full count — scored the first run of the game when he drilled a fastball over the fence in right field. It was his first career home run.

“It felt good. I’ve been working on my swing,” Brooks said. “The coaches have been producing confidence for me. I knew my swing was there.”

The Pirates came out and retired the side in order in the top of the fourth inning and then tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the frame. Love, who went 2-for-3, led off with a single up the middle. Eric Tyler followed up with a single of his own to centerfield.

Bryce Harman, who also went 2-for-3 at the plate, singled through the right side to score. Eric Tyler scored shortly thereafter to give ECU the 3-0 lead. Travis Watkins reached on a fielder’s choice and a throwing error by pitcher Cre Finfrock.

The win is the latest in ECU’s efforts to build a postseason résumé. It marked their fourth win of the week, fifth in a row and second against the No. 24 Knights.

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