ECU Rallies For Walk-Off Win in AAC Tourney
East Carolina has grown comfortable playing in tight games. In fact, this has become a major part of the team’s identity. “We’ve been behind in a lot of games this year. I think we’re the toughest team in the country,” said ECU second baseman Charlie Yorgen, who laced a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat Central Florida in Wednesday’s American Conference Tournament opener at Bright House Field. “We’ll always fight you back and we’re never going to give up.” The Pirates (37-20) have now won five straight games and their last nine one-run games. As a result, they have advanced into the winner’s bracket to face either Tulane or Connecticut on Thursday night at 7 p.m. ECU’s first-team All-AAC pitcher Reid Love tossed eight innings — marking his fourth consecutive start that lasted longer than seven innings — and struck out eight Knights (31-26). “Just another gutsy performance,” ECU coach Cliff Godwin said of Love. “Getting ahead in the count, getting outs when we need him to. That’s why he’s our captain.” After UCF’s Dylan Moore broke a 1-1 tie in the seventh inning on a two-run single with two outs, the Pirates scratched runs in each of the final three frames off of first-team All-AAC pitcher Zach Rodgers. In the Pirates’ half of the seventh, Garrett Brooks plated Bryce Harman on a sacrifice fly and Travis Watkins followed suit in the eighth with another sac-fly — after Luke Lowery booked a triple — to knot up the score, 3-all. Despite Rodgers (10-1) plunking Eric Tyler to lead off the ninth inning and having two relievers up in the UCF bullpen, Knights’ coach Terry Rooney stuck with his ace. Rodgers allowed 11 hits in his first loss of the season. Following a sac-bunt to advance pinch runner Parker Lamm, Hunter Allen sent a line drive off of the right-field wall, but a base-running miscue led to Lamm being thrown out by roughly 10 feet at the plate. However, before Lamm's error could become a pivotal part of the game’s story, Yorgen pumped a single up the middle to score Allen and send the Pirates to the winner’s bracket. “Any time you’re in a tournament and it is double elimination, you want to get off on the right foot,” Godwin said. “For our guys to keep on winning in this kind of fashion, it’s a big momentum (boost) for us.” Allen finished 3-for-5 at the plate and ECU reliever Joe Ingle picked up his first win of the season after pitching a flawless, 1-2-3 ninth inning. The Pirates took two out of three games in all three of their series against Tulane and UConn this season (twice against UConn, once Tulane). Thursday night’s winner’s bracket game will be broadcast live on the American Conference Digital Network. According to the assistant commissioner of digital media with the conference, Mark Hodgkin, Wednesday’s game between ECU and UCF was the most viewed live event in the two-year history of the American Digital Network.
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