Despite falling out of contention for the C-USA championship game, ECU closed out the season on a high note with an 8-7 win over Southern Miss.
Just like they did throughout the whole season, the Pirates battled back and pulled out the victory. Trailing 6-2 going into the latter third of the game, ECU struck for six runs in the seventh and eighth innings combined.
“It kind of clicked - when our back’s to the wall – that’s when we start playing and that’s what we did tonight,” said right fielder Jay Cannon of ECU’s come-from-behind win.
Head coach Billy Godwin agreed. “I was really proud of their effort. It would have been easy to fold when we were down and they battled back.”
ECU will not qualify for a regional and finishes the season with a 31-26 record, which is far below the team’s expectations.
“The last 20 games, we played .700 baseball. I was disappointed with the way we came out the first two games. I told them ‘we talk about pride and courage all the time in our program’ that this is what we had to play for,” said Godwin.
The Pirates opened the scoring with two runs in the fourth inning. Drew Reynolds and Zach Houchins were both hit by pitches and Chase McDonald’s single to left center loaded the bases. Southern Miss pitcher Paxton King walked Chris Gosik to load the bases. ECU opened scoring – 2-0 – on a bases-loaded walk and an RBI single by Jack Reinheimer.
Despite having five men on base through the first five innings, ECU was able to hold the Golden Eagles off the score sheet. Then, Southern Miss’ offense broke through in the sixth inning.
Catcher Austin Roussel began the frame with a leadoff double. Following a hit-by-pitch amd a Bradley Roney single to load the bases, left fielder Blake Brown’s put the Golden Eagles on the board with a sac-fly.
Shortstop Michael Sterling put the Golden Eagles in the lead on a two-run double and later, second baseman Nick Dawson capped the six run inning on a bases-clearing double with the bases loaded.
The Pirates met Southern Miss’ offensive explosion with six runs of their own in the seventh and eighth innings. Reinheimer and Cannon both got on base with singles at the beginning of the inning. Reinheimer scored on an RBI hit by Philip Clark and Cannon was brought in on Sam King’s sac-fly.
Bryan Bass knotted up the game in the eighth with his RBI single. Drew Reynolds followed suit to give ECU the lead. Houchins closed the frame with a sacrifice fly-out to plate the decisive run, Ben Fultz.
Down by two runs, the Golden Eagles mounted a comeback in bottom of the ninth. Brown’s two-out double trimmed the deficit to one, but it was too late. Reynolds ended Southern Miss’ comeback promptly with a game-ending strikeout and recorded the save.
Relief pitcher Andy Smithmyer earned the win after picking up four strikeouts and only allowing one hit in just 1.2 innings pitched.
Despite losing, Southern Miss will meet top-seeded Rice in the C-USA championship. The game is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday and will air nationally on the CBS Sports Network.