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USF takes series

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East Carolina relief pitcher Ryan Ross looks over to third base during Sunday's series' finale won by South Florida at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, April 15, 2018

After a blowout scored by each team, American Athletic Conference baseball champion hopefuls East Carolina and South Florida might have been destined to play a close game Sunday.

They did, and it was visiting USF that left Greenville with the series win after a 5-4 victory over the No. 7 Pirates in the rubber match at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

Jake Washer hit a home run to give ECU (26-9, 6-3 AAC) a 3-2 lead in the third inning, but USF nudged ahead from there and a strong bullpen effort squashed the Pirates’ final comeback attempts. Each team had 10 hits and an error.

The win by USF (23-13, 7-5), which lost 15-2 on Friday and won 13-1 Saturday, stopped the Pirates’ series win streak at five straight and was ECU’s first defeat in a weekend Game 3 all year.

“Washer had the big home run, but we were just a little bit short in all facets,” Pirate coach Cliff Godwin said. “It wasn’t just the offense or just the pitching, but it was a little bit of everything. A lot of guys got in the game today, but we just didn’t do enough.”

USF’s four pitchers totaled 14 strikeouts and two walks, including first reliever Alec Wisely (2-0) with six strikeouts in 2 2/3 scoreless innings. Closer Andrew Perez tossed the final two innings with one run allowed on three hits for his fifth save.

The Pirates trailed 5-3 and got two runners on base with one out in the bottom of the eighth. The left-handed Perez then sandwiched a Nick Barber strikeout and Brady Lloyd ground ball for an inning-ending out around Bryant Packard’s two-out RBI single, which made it 5-4 and moved Turner Brown to third base.

Connor Litton reached on an two-out error in the ninth and pinch runner Dusty Baker stole second base before Perez fanned Bryson Worrell.

ECU is 4-10 against the Bulls since joining the American in 2015.

“Our league is as deep this year as it has ever been,” Godwin said. “Some of the players who are running out there and the arms that you are facing, and then South Florida is as good as an offense as we’ve faced all year. It’s tough, man, and it’s a bunch of games that are really difficult to win.”

Wind helped Washer push a three-run home run to right field in the bottom of the third, giving the Pirates a brief 3-2 lead for their first advantage since Friday night.

The visitors answered with two runs in the fourth. ECU and left-handed reliever Ryan Ross almost got out the frame with the score tied at 3-3 on a pickoff at first base, but it was ruled a balk and the ECU fielders who were heading toward the dugout had to return to their spots.

No. 9 batter Tyler Dietrich then hit a go-ahead, RBI single to center field.

Pirate starter Trey Benton (4-5) gave up four runs on four hits with a strikeout and walk in 3 1/3 innings.

In addition to Washer’s homer, Lloyd finished 3-for-5 and Dwanya Williams-Sutton 2-for-2 with a walk and run scored for the Pirate offense.

Bulls cleanup man and home run leader Joe Genord, whose home run trot Saturday was met with ire by East Carolina and its fans, went 0-for-5 in the finale.

“We were staying pretty composed over here and they were saying some stuff over there, but you can’t really control that and what they say it really doesn’t matter,” Packard said. “We’ll see them again, hopefully in Clearwater (during the AAC tournament).”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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