ECU falls to Columbia in Regional Opener

Coral Gables Fla. — A disastrous sixth inning fueled by uncharacteristic mistakes doomed East Carolina as it dropped the opening game of the Coral Gables Regional to Columbia, 6-3.

East Carolina’s hopes of winning its first NCAA tournament game since 2012 and carrying on its five-game winnings streak went by the wayside on Friday when second baseman Charlie Yorgen air mailed the throw to first on a potential inning-ending double play.

It wasn’t all on Yorgen however; as Pirate relievers were playing with fire all throughout the sixth inning, despite being handed a 3-1 lead by starter Evan Kruczynski.

“I’m not going to take anything away from Columbia, but we didn’t play well," ECU coach Cliff Godwin said. "We didn’t pitch well. We didn’t hit well. We didn’t play good defense. This time of year if you do all three phases bad, you’re not going to win. It is disappointing, but if you don’t play well, then you don’t win. It’s a pretty simple recipe.”

Reliever Nick Durazo entered with just one out in the sixth and inherited runners at the corner left by Kruczynski. A leadoff walk to Columbia first baseman Nick Maguire loaded the bases, leading to a wild pitch just one batter later that trimmed ECU’s lead to 3-2.

Freshman pitcher Joe Ingle, who was named to the American Athletic Conference all-tournament team, was called on to get the Pirates out of the jam — something that he’s done all season.

Columbia catcher Logan Boyher poked an Ingle 1-1 pitch to shortstop Hunter Allen for what looked like a tailor made double play but Yorgen rushed his throw to first and missed Ingle who was covering the base by a few feet, allowing the Lions to take a 4-3 lead.

“It was a little unusual," Ingle said of the play. "I think somebody said something like the runner slid in with his hands up and tried to come at him out of the baseline. I think that’s what kind of messed him up. I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention to it. I was covering first.”

He added, “I did think I was going to get out of the inning. I trust Hunter Allen and Charlie Yorgen. I could put my life out there for them. I know they’d do the same for me. It wasn’t really frustrating because I knew I just had to get a job done, get the next pitch, focus on the next batter, one pitch at a time.”

Ingle issued walks to the next two Lions batters before Joe Falcone laced a ball to right that ECU right fielder Luke Lowery dove for but couldn’t corral, extending Columbia’s lead to 6-3, which would be the final score of the game.

Columbia (32-15) opened the scoring in the first inning when center fielder Jordan Serena belted Kruczynski’s full count pitch to left center, giving him a leadoff solo home run to start the game.

However, the sophomore Kruczynski would eventually settle in despite struggling with his command and finished with five and one-thirds innings pitched with five hits and three earned runs. He was the first of five ECU pitchers to enter the contest.

Offensively, ECU (40-21) was fueled by a three-run fourth inning but ultimately struggled to find hits off of Columbia pitchers George Thanopoulos and Adam Cline. No Pirate batter notched more than one hit on the day and Eric Tyler’s two-RBI single in the fourth inning made him the only ECU with an RBI in the game.

The Pirates registered six hits on the game but failed to convert with runners in scoring position. In the first inning, Lowery stranded two runners on base after a fly out. Lowery, who registered a walk and a hit in the game despite striking out twice, once again found himself with a chance to do damage and get the Pirates on the board, this time in the ninth, as he represented both the tying run and the last out of the game.

With Yorgen and Kirk Morgan standing on first and second the slugger Lowery, who hit 12 homers during the regular season, struck out swinging, ending the contest and making the Pirates’ hopes of a Super Regional more bleak.

“If you’re looking for positives obviously we had guys on base almost every inning," Tyler said. "But again it’s just one of those things were you can’t take too much of a positive because we didn’t get them in. We didn’t get enough runs to win and it’s just something we got to come back tomorrow and put a focus on.”

The Pirates will need to bounce back in the second game of the Regionals tomorrow at 1 p.m. against the loser of the Miami and Florida International game. Godwin confirmed that senior ace Reid Love will be the starter for the Pirates.

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