GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — A two-run homer in the opening minutes of the biggest game in school history might rattle some teams.
Not this bunch. Now, they are one win away from making more history.
East Carolina’s baseball team overcame a two-run blast by Texas in the top of the first inning by putting a three-spot of their own in the bottom half of the frame. From there, the Pirates used more good offense and held on through some testy moments for a 13-7 win on Friday in the Greenville Super Regional at Clark-LeClair Stadium.
A record crowd of 5,723 fans watched on pins and needles as the Pirates got the lead, seemingly blew the game open then held on as the Longhorns put on one major rally after another only to come up just short.
The win puts the Pirates (46-19) one win away from the program’s first-ever trip to Omaha, Neb., and the College World Series, which starts June 17. ECU came into the game 1-12 all-time in Super Regional games with a win over Texas Tech in 2016.
Texas (45-20), which has been to 37 College World Series — the most all-time — and ECU will play again Saturday at noon. If ECU wins, it is the super regional champion. If Texas wins, a deciding game in the best-of-3 series will be played at a time to be determined on Sunday.
Texas’ Douglas Hondo III doubled to start the first inning before Murphy Stehly hit a homer with two outs to give the Longhorns a 2-0 lead. The blast brought a bit of surprise to the crowd as thoughts of last Sunday’s Coastal Carolina game, where the Chanticleers scored three runs, two on a homer, for a 3-0 lead.
Coastal won that game, 10-4, to end ECU’s 20-game winning streak, the longest in the nation at the time.
Instead, the blast sparked the Pirates to score three runs and take a lead they would never give up, despite several threats by the Longhorns.
Zach Agnos walked, Lane Hoover hit a bunt single and Bryce Worrell singled to load the bases. A passed ball with Jacob Jenkins-Cowart batting allowed Agnos to score, cutting the margin to 2-1. Jenkins-Cowart then laced a single to left-center that scored Worrell and Hoover to give ECU a 3-2 lead.
Suddenly, the momentum Texas had switched. As hard as the Longhorns tried, they could never regain the lead.
ECU tacked on three runs in the fourth for a 6-2 lead. Jacob Starling hit a solo homer to left and Agnos singled in Alec Makarewicz, who doubled after Starling’s homer. Texas then made things interesting with a two-run sixth that made it 7-4 before two more runs scored in the eighth cut ECU’s lead to 8-7.
In the sixth, Ivan Melendez and Stehly hit back-to-back homers and had two runners on base before a double play by the Pirates erased the threat. In the eighth, Texas’ Silas Ardoin doubled to right to drive in Austin Todd, who opened with a bunt single, and Jack O’Dowd grounded out to second to score Ardoin to make it 8-7.
ECU got the final two outs in the eighth with Agnos coming on in relief to pitch the Pirates out of another jam.
The Pirates then came through one final time with a five-run eighth that blew the game open and allowed ECU fans to somewhat breathe a sigh of relief.
Makarewicz hit a solo homer, Worrell singled in Ryder Giles, who came in as a pinch-runner, and Jenkins-Cowart blasted a two-run double to right that scored Worrell and Hoover. Starling singled through the left side to drive in Moylan.
The Pirates batted around in the bottom of the eight and left runners at first and second when Makarewicz flew out to the warning track in left-center.
ECU starter C.J. Mayhue (6-1) struck out nine in five innings while allowing four earned runs. Zach Agnos picked up his third save. Texas starter Pete Hansen lost for just the second time this season, with 11 wins, after allowing five earned runs in four innings.
One down, one to go.