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ECU erupts to regional title matchup; Camels are next

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East Carolina's Jake Washer celebrates after a home run against Quinnipiac on Sunday night at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, June 2, 2019

East Carolina is at the halfway point.

ECU baseball has never won four straight games to win an NCAA regional, but it took care of half of the challenge Sunday in eliminating N.C. State with a 9-2 afternoon win and then defeating and eliminating regional No. 4 seed Quinnipiac, 13-3, thanks to a season-high 19 hits at night at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

Now ECU’s focus is all on Campbell, which is 2-0 at the four-team, double-elimination Greenville Regional and needs to be beaten twice by ECU not to be crowned champion. The Pirates (45-16) have to defeat Campbell at 1 p.m. to create a winner-take-all final at 7.

“We are only guaranteed one game, so we have to take it one pitch at a time,” Pirate coach Cliff Godwin said. “We are in a marathon, but you can't run the entire marathon taking all the steps. It’s one step at a time.

“We are halfway through that marathon, and we just have to get that next quarter and move on to play another one.”

Facing elimination all day on Sunday, it was two-run home runs each by Bryant Packard and Jake Washer in the third inning against the pesky Bobcats (30-29) that turned a 1-1 tie into a 5-1 Pirate lead. ECU led 12-2 in the top of the seventh.

Quinnipiac pulled one of the most unlikely upsets so far in the NCAA tournament on Saturday night, edging NCAA No. 10 overall seed ECU 5-4. The Pirates hit four home runs in the rematch to reach the regional championship round.

“We wanted to really set the tone early and send a message that, yeah, they got us on Night 1, but we are still here and we are still tough,” Chandler Jenkins said. “We can beat anybody. We set the tone and it loosened everybody up and got us rolling. We can’t wait until tomorrow.”

Louisville and Illinois State will play a winner-take-all final at the Louisville Regional at 1 p.m. That winner will match up against the Greenville Regional winner in a super regional series.

If ECU and Illinois State advance, the Pirates will host the super regional. They would have to travel to Louisville if Louisville wins.

Washer hit three homers on Sunday — one against the Wolfpack and two versus Quinnipiac — to up his team-best season total to 15. He hit home runs in three straight at-bats, becoming the first Pirate to do that since Ryan Jones in 2004.

ECU starter Tyler Smith gave up two runs on four hits in 3.2 innings. He struck out one batter and walked four.

The Pirates did not pitch Gavin Williams, Alec Burleson, Sam Lanier or Evan Voliva on Sunday.

Packard was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts against N.C. State. His first at-bat against Quinnipiac also was a strikeout, but his long home run to right field sparked the team and him finishing 2-for-4 on Sunday night.

Washer was 2-for-4 with four RBIs. Burleson was 3-for-3 with two runs scored.

East Carolina 9, N.C. State 2

Quinnipiac won its first NCAA regional baseball game on Saturday night at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

It was East Carolina’s turn in the first game on Sunday to pull off a first, and it was a win that many people in purple and gold who don’t like red will remember for a while.

ECU convincingly defeated rival N.C. State 9-2. The Pirates eliminated N.C. State, which went 0-2 at the Greenville Regional as the No. 2 seed, for ECU’s first-ever postseason win over the Wolfpack (42-19).

The teams had met only twice in the postseason — N.C. State wins in 1968 and 1990.

“Any time we play an in-state team, yeah it was awesome it was the postseason, but you love beating teams like that,” Pirate starting pitcher Jake Agnos said. “They have a good ball club. Every Division I team in the state does. ... But we didn’t come into this tournament to go 1-1, so this was a big one, but we have to come out (again) with the same punch.”

ECU took control of the matchup with six runs in the bottom of the third inning, reversing a 1-0 Wolfpack lead into an insurmountable 6-1 Pirate advantage.

Pirate fans, forming most of the crowd of 4,670, fully enjoyed the momentum-changing inning that featured six ECU runs on five hits and a State error.

“I get chills talking about (the stadium environment),” said Pirate coach Cliff Godwin, an ECU alum. “I just appreciate the support.”

ECU’s third-inning rally began with a Ryder Giles leadoff single. It was 1-1 when Washer sent a single up the middle to score Burleson for a 2-1 Pirate edge.

The clutch hits continued.

Chandler Jenkins hit an RBI single, followed by Brady Lloyd sending a ball to right field for an RBI double that immediately got worse for the Wolfpack when the ball was booted by Devonte Brown in the outfield, sending Washer home to score and Lloyd to third base.

New pitcher Nick Swiney’s first pitch then was a wild pitch, scoring Lloyd to make it 6-1.

N.C. State used four pitchers in the inning, pulling starter Jason Parker with one out and two runners on base after a Turner Brown single. The Wolfpack was winning 1-0 when Parker was replaced by Evan Justice, who got one out while being charged three runs.

“That inning we felt like we had to go with a lefty against Burleson,” NCSU coach Elliott Avent said. “Justice was the guy we had matched up for Burleson. He came in and did his job, but then it kind of went haywire.”

Agnos allowed two runs and struck out nine batters in eight-plus innings and 127 pitches for his 15th straight start with at least six strikeouts. His 290 career Ks are tied for the American Athletic Conference record with former Houston ace Seth Romero.

“I can’t say enough about Jake Agnos, because I think N.C. State has one of the best offenses that we’ve faced all year,” Godwin said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a kid pitch like that, in that circumstance, against a quality opponent like that.”

The Wolfpack scored first on Patrick Bailey’s solo home run in the top of the first. Then it was all Pirates.

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

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