baseball Edit

East Carolina Survives Major Test to Beat Charlotte 7-5

ECU puts together a winning effort in comeback fashion to beat Charlotte 7-5 Saturday night in Greenville.
ECU puts together a winning effort in comeback fashion to beat Charlotte 7-5 Saturday night in Greenville. ( photo)

Trailing for much of the game, (13)East Carolina came through late with three clutch runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to take the lead. Lane Hoover's two-run hit in proved to be the difference in a 7-5 victory over Charlotte Saturday night in Clark-LeClair Stadium in the 2021 NCAA Greenville Regional.

With the victory ECU advances to Sunday in the winner’s bracket, just one win away from moving to the Super Regionals next weekend.

In front of 5,210 in Clark-LeClair Stadium, Matt Bridges improved to 5-0 on the season with the win on the mound while Bryce McGowan fell 7-5 with the loss for Charlotte. Bridges went two and third innings late, giving up just one hit with three strikeouts to shut the door late on a 49’er team that had ten hits on the day.

Gavin Williams gave up seven hits and five runs in six innings and 98 pitches of work on the mound as the ECU starter on Saturday.

ECU head coach Cliff Godwin gave the ECU fanbase major credit in helping to get his team over the hump Saturday night.

“If the fans don’t show up and don’t get into the game and are energetic then we have no shot at winning that game,” said Godwin afterward, “Hats off to (Trae) Starnes. The guy pitched his butt off against us, kept us off balance and really just grinded it out. Their offense made Gavin work a whole lot. Gavin didn’t have his best stuff, but Charlotte is the best offense we’ve faced the entire year.”

“I’m super proud of the team. The grittiness they showed and the toughness. It would be super easy to just pack it in.”

Alec Makarewicz got ECU on the scoreboard first with a single to left field and Connor Norby scored from third base for a 1-0 lead.

Charlotte(40-20) answered in the top of the third frame on a timely LuJames Groover hit to centerfield with the bases loaded that scored two runs to give the 49’ers the lead. Then with the bases still loaded, Nate Furman spanked a Gavin Williams fastball to right centerfield that scored two more runs and suddenly Charlotte was up 4-1.

But it did not take long for ECU(43-15) to get on the scoreboard again in the bottom of the third on a Josh Moylan grounder that allowed Connor Norby to score from third base in a 4-2 contest.

In the seventh inning, Aaron McKeithan jumped on Gavin Williams’ 98th pitch of the game on a 3-0 offering for a home run to left field as the Charlotte lead grew to 5-2. That ended the evening on the mound for Williams when ECU brought on A.J. Wilson out of the bullpen.

But Wilson lasted just four pitches and one base hit from Carson Johnson before C.J. Mayhue entered in relief in his 32nd appearance of the year. Then Mayhue went just six pitches and one hit before Matt Bridges(5-0) came on with two outs and Charlotte runners on the corners. Bridges struck Will Butcher out to end the seventh and ultimately picked up the win for ECU.

After starting pitcher Trae Starnes(7-5) hit Lane Hoover on the thumb with his 94th pitch of the game in the seventh, Charlotte made a pitching change in right-hander Bryce McGowan. Starnes was credited with the loss for Charlotte, but was nothing short of solid in his six innings of work despite giving up four runs on five hits.

Pirate runners advanced to second and third base when catcher Aaron McKeithan lost track of where the baseball was on the ground between his legs on a pitch. ECU then scored a pair of runs on a Seth Caddell RBI and a Joey Berini single down the left field line that trimmed the Charlotte lead to one at 5-4.

The Pirates then put runners on first and second base in the eighth for Bryson Worrell who came in banged up physically but was inserted into the starting lineup late and his double scored a big run to tie the game at 5-5.

“McGowan is a dude. He throws really hard. He’s got a good slider and I was just trying to keep it simple, stay to the middle of the field and he left me a slider up and got the job done,” Worrell told PI, “Then Hoover coming up behind me, hit two big RBI’s really shut the door.”

With runners on second and third, Lane Hoover then slapped a base hit to centerfield to score a pair of runs that put ECU in the driver’s seat at 7-5.

Perhaps the biggest benefit in winning Saturday night’s game for ECU is remaining in the winner’s bracket. The Pirates would have to lose twice in order to avoid advancing to the Super Regionals. East Carolina avoided major peril down by three runs late to pull out the victory.

“It’s better to be 2-0 than 1-1,” said Godwin, “But I wouldn’t have counted us out if we had to play tomorrow at noon because our guys have invested a whole lot to be in the situation we are in right now.”

“I feel awesome right now. Our players feel great,” Godwin told, “I didn’t think we were dead. I knew we had another run in us. I didn’t know if we had enough in us to finish the game off, but I wouldn’t call the Pirates dead just down three runs. That’s not our M.O. Could we have lost that game? Absolutely, but our guys put together some tough at bats and had some crucial walks and what Bridgey did at the end was awesome.”

“It’s special coming here. The seniors, Smitty and also Smalls, it’s really what brought us here in the first place. This culture is special. We grind every day and we’re going to do our best to put our best foot forward,” said Bridges, “We believe in each other, we’re a special group and we’re looking to just keep pushing forward from here on out. We’re going to ride the wave and hopefully Pirate Nation will be back here tomorrow. It’s awesome.”

ECU moves into Sunday set to take on the winner of a high noon matchup between Maryland and Charlotte with a first pitch scheduled for 6 p.m. Sunday evening and a Super Regional bid within reach.