ECU Wins Regional in 10 Inning Drama, 10-9
The Oscar for best dramatic weekend in sports goes to – the South Carolina and East Carolina baseball programs. (Or should).
They started the weekend in cruise control, winning big over George Mason 11-3 on Friday followed by a 12-2 pasting of the homestanding East Carolina Pirates. Like any good movie, when things started looking good, the plot thickened, and when all the Gamecocks needed was a Sunday night victory to win the regional, the Pirates took an 8-0 lead on Sunday night. The never-say-die Gamecocks fought back within 8-6 and brought the winning run to the plate, only to fall short and force a Monday winner-take-all game.
So the final chapter opened with a big lead for USC, a furious comeback for the Pirates to tie the game and send it into an extra inning, and then best actor Devin Harris stepped to the plate and sent a cannon blast through the heart of the Gamecock season.
It began with less than auspicious start for USC, when leadoff batter Whit Merrifield fouled a ball off his cup and the game was delayed longer than usual for one of those while he walked off the pain. He popped out for the first out of the game, but brought home the first run for USC in the top of the second with a base hit, scoring Bobby Haney and giving the Gamecocks an early 1-0 lead. Merrifield extended his current hitting streak to 14 straight games with the hit.
In the second inning, Crisp cruised into third base on what for many would be a routine pickoff at second when Bobby Haney hit the ball to right field. He was then picked off between third base and home on a 3-2-5 play. Crisp is now third on the all-time number of games played for USC.
In the third, after a Nick Ebert walk and a Justin Dalles single, Parker Bangs banged a double to left to score Ebert, then Crisp hit a sac fly to score Dalles to give the Gamecocks a 3-0 lead. Bobby Haney raised his regional total to 9 for 14 with a single to center, scoring Bangs for a 4-0 lead.
Six of the nine Gamecock who started Monday night have double digit home runs this season. Scott Wingo must have got tired of watching his team mates pad their totals in Greenville, and #8 "Ocho" Wingo blasted a two run no-doubter down the first base line to cap a five run South Carolina onslaught in the third inning and the previously mentioned 6-0 score. And that was all for starting Pirate pitcher Patrick Somers. He was replaced by Bailey Daniels, who finally got the third out for ECU.
In the fourth, the Pirates were threatening with the bases loaded and one out, but Drew Schieber hit the ball back to pitcher Jay Brown, who threw home for one out, and then Dalles threw to first for the double play, and the Gamecocks were out of the inning with no blood drawn by the Pirates at that point.
In the bottom of the fifth, ECU after a Trent Whitehead walk, Woods homered to left field and put ECU on the board 6-2.
DeAngelo Mack advanced Merrifeld to third on a base hit in the top of the 6th. Seth Simmons then came on to replace Daniels as the new ECU pitcher. A run scored when Dalles hit a single off the left field wall. Mack started from third to home and retreated, forcing Ebert to dive into the bag at second, and Dalles was run down trying to get back to first, getting the second out. Brady Thomas came in as the DH replacing Bangs as a hitter, and struck out to end the inning. Devin Harris singled in the bottom of the 6th, then Jared Avchen scored Harris on a double to pull ECU within 7-3. Whitehead flied out to center, scoring Drew Schieber on a sac fly, and the Pirates were within 7-4. Wood grounded out to end the inning.
In the bottom of the 7th, Dustin Harrington and Devin Harris made it much more interesting with back-to-back singles to pull the Pirates within one, 7-6.
In the 8th, South Carolina was in need of a hero. After taking a 6-0 lead over East Carolina in the 3rd, the Pirates stormed back within 7-6 in the 7th inning. Jackie Bradley Jr. answered the call, stepping to the plate and jacking a two run blast over the right field fence, giving the Gamecocks a 3 run lead that would hold until the bottom of the 9th.
With the Gamecocks leading 9-6, the Pirates came to the plate in the bottom of the 9th. When Alex Farotto walked the first batter Henderson, Curtis "Cujo" Johnson was called back into service for the second time in the regionals. He walked Harrington, and then Harris hit a three run shot to tie it up. After giving up another base hit to Austin Homan, Cujo induced a ground out and two pop outs to get out of the inning and send it to extra innings.
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