ECU pounded out 17 hits on Saturday, but fell short by the final of 10-9.
Greenville, N.C. – East Carolina’s bats stayed hot, but the team was missing two other key components of its game on Saturday.
After the Pirates rallied to take the lead in the bottom of the eighth, ECU closer Drew Reynolds blew a three-run ninth-inning advantage and wound up giving up the game-winning runs in the 11th en route to a 10-9 loss to Southern Miss at Clark-LeClair Stadium.
The Pirates pounded out 17 hits on offense, but committed four errors, allowed seven unearned runs and handed out nine free passes on the day.
“We didn’t execute enough, but we competed awful hard,” said ECU coach Billy Godwin. “We just gave too many things away against a good club in this situation. It’s disappointing, but I really like the fight in our guys right now. They never believe they’re out of a game. They keep coming back, keep coming back at you, and that’s a huge characteristic.”
Following RBI singles from Jack Reinheimer and Reynolds, Zach Houchins’ three-run blast capped a five-run rally in the bottom of the eighth inning, giving ECU (25-22, 9-8 Conference USA) what appeared to be a comfortable 8-5 lead heading to the ninth.
But Reynolds (3-2) struggled to put away the Golden Eagles (25-20, 14-6 C-USA), allowing them to tie the game on an RBI base hit from Dillon Day and a Chase Fowler two-run single.
Garrett Brooks’ strong throw on an Andrew Furr fly ball into shallow center field doubled off Day at home plate to keep the game tied heading into extra frames.
Two innings later, the Golden Eagles got to Reynolds once again.
Mason Robbins lined a leadoff single into center and Bradley Roney doubled off the wall in left field. Fowler then skied a fly ball to deep center for the go-ahead RBI sacrifice fly, and Furr followed with a run-scoring infield hit to make it 10-8.
The Pirates rallied in the 11th on the backs of a Houchins single and a McDonald double into the right-center field gap to put runners on second and third with no one out, but all they could muster was a Brooks run-scoring sac fly as Nick Thompson flew out to center against Roney (1-0) to end the game.
“If you tell me we get nine runs, or even eight through nine (innings), you take it,” Godwin said. “But it’s a crazy game. Our game is different than any other game. You can’t figure it out sometimes, but the bottom line is the left-hand column and we were just short.”
A nightmare top of the first inning set the tone for the Pirates. Two errors mixed with a pair of Golden Eagle hits led to four unearned Southern Miss runs right away against ECU starting pitcher David Lucroy.
Austin Roussel began the inning by reaching on a strikeout-wild pitch, and was followed by a Travis Creel bunt attempt that was thrown away by catcher Travis Watkins to put runners at first and third.
After Isaac Rodriguez walked to loaded the bases, Robbins singled to plate the Golden Eagles’ initial run, and Roney’s grounder to third got under the glove of Houchins at third to score two more and make it 3-0.
Day’s RBI single scored Robbins for the Golden Eagles’ fourth run of the frame before Lucroy got out of the jam.
ECU battled back in the sixth to scratch two runs across against Southern Miss starting pitcher Andrew Pierce.
Houchins singled to begin the frame and Chase McDonald drew a walk to put two on with no one out. Dylan Brown ripped an RBI single off the glove of the second baseman, plating Houchins for the Pirates’ first run of the contest.
Philip Clark’s infield single loaded the bases for Luke Lowery, who brought home McDonald with a sacrifice fly to deep left field to trim the deficit to 4-2.
The Pirates got another in the seventh on McDonald’s one-out RBI single into the right-center field gap against USM reliever Daniel Wineski, but – with runners on the corner and one out – Brown grounded into a double play to squander the rally.
Six ECU players notched multi-hit games, with Bass, Houchins, McDonald and Reynolds all tallying three hits apiece.
Day and Robbins each ripped three hits for the Golden Eagles, and Fowler finished with a team-high three RBI.
“It’s devastating that we fight that hard to get back into the game after pretty much just letting them take full control of the game in the first inning,” said Houchins. “We fought hard and it sucks it didn’t come out our way.”
The two teams will wrap up the series in the rubber game on Sunday at 11 a.m.