GREENVILLE—Game two of the weekend series between the East Carolina Pirates and the Southern Miss Golden Eagles had everything a baseball fan could ask for. Both teams combined for 30 hits and a pair of multiple-run rallies Saturday, with the Golden Eagles outlasting the Pirates, 10-9, in eleven innings.
After falling behind 4-0 in the first inning, ECU (25-22, 9-8 Conference USA) clawed its way back and into the lead, 8-5, when third baseman Zach Houchins belted a three-run blast in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Pirates closer Drew Reynolds, who entered today 12-for-14 in save opportunities this year, came on to pitch in the ninth inning, but couldn’t finish the job.
Southern Miss (25-20, 14-6 C-USA) loaded the bases and drew even, 8-8, on Dillon Day’s RBI single and a two-RBI double from catcher Chase Fowler.
Following a quiet tenth inning, the Golden Eagles broke the tie when Travis Creel flew out deep enough to centerfield to score Mason Robbins from third base. Pinch-hitter Andrew Furr added an insurance run on a RBI single to put his team in front, 10-8.
ECU responded by putting the tying run in scoring position, following back-to-back hits from Houchins and Chase McDonald to lead off the bottom of the eleventh inning. The Pirates couldn’t capitalize though, flying out on their next three at-bats to end the game.
Third baseman Bradley Roney (1-0), who came on to pitch in the eighth inning, earned his first win of the season, while Reynolds (3-2) was handed the loss and his third blown save.
Though the offensive output made for an exciting spectacle at Clark LeClair Stadium, only three of Southern Miss’ ten runs were earned, aided by four ECU errors. The Pirates will have to wait until Sunday morning at 11 a.m. for another chance its fourth consecutive weekend series in league-play.
“It’s devastating that we fight that hard to get back into the game,” said Houchins. “I think we should have won that game. We gave it to them.”
Head coach Billy Godwin added, “Hopefully we walk away feeling good about the way we competed, but we just gave too many things away against a good club.”
Southern Miss took command of the game from the first pitch, with some help from ECU. Errors from catcher Travis Watkins and third baseman Houchins allowed the Golden Eagles to jump out in front 3-0 without the Pirates recording an out.
A little bit of luck worked to the advantage of the visitors when Chase Fowler singled off of the first-base bag to score Robbins and extend the Southern Miss lead to 4-0.
ECU came out swinging and had the bases loaded in the bottom half of the inning. But the recently red-hot McDonald could do nothing but ground into an inning-ending double-play.
Southern Miss loaded the bases in the top of the fourth inning with Robbins at the plate. Starter David Lucroy struck out him out looking to retire the frame.
Right-hander Andy Smithmyer came on in relief of Lucroy after he hit ECU’s 82nd batter of the season to start the fifth inning. The NCAA record is 99.
It wasn’t until the bottom of the sixth inning that the Pirates got on the board. First, Dylan Brown slapped an RBI single just past the glove of second baseman Issac Rodriguez to plate Houchins. Later, Luke Lowery scored McDonald on a sacrifice-fly to cut the Golden Eagle lead in half, 4-2.
An inning later, ECU clawed within a run—4-3—on McDonald’s RBI single into the gap in right field, which crossed Reynolds to score.
With two outs in the top of the eighth, Day reached base on second baseman Bryan Bass’ fielding error. Day later scored on a wild pitch from Andy Smithmyer to notch an insurance run for the Golden Eagles, 5-3.
ECU fought back to tie the game, 5-5, with back-to-back two-out RBI singles from Jack Reinheimer and Reynolds. On the next at-bat, Houchins found a hanging-slider to take deep for his fifth home run of the year.
In his last eleven games, Houchins is 23-for-46 (.500) with 12 runs, six doubles, and nine RBI.