East Carolina briefly batted its way back into the good old days on Wednesday night.
A Pirate baseball team which had chalked up six of its 12 wins this season by one run was locked in a another tight game for six innings against Buffalo, but another monster game from Zach Wright relieved some of the Pirates' close-game anxiety.
Wright homered twice, including a three-run blast in the eighth inning that secured an 8-3 win for the Pirates (13-4). It was part of a 4-for-5, four-RBI night for the junior catcher.
Buffalo (2-11) nipped at ECU's heels for most of the night, but senior reliever Brad Mincey took the mound in the top of the seventh and provided his usual calming influence, throwing 12/3 innings and earning the win.
“The game is nine innings, and we came on with five runs in the seventh and the eighth and we're certainly excited about that,” ECU head coach Billy Godwin said. “But we've got to come out a little sharper, a little crisper. But we won and we didn't win by one, so that's good.”
After spending most of the night losing one-run leads to the Bulls, the Pirates broke the third tie of the game in the bottom of the seventh inning and finally got the two-run cushion they'd been seeking.
A balk by Buffalo reliever Daniel Ginader gave rise to the first run in the seventh. With the game tied at 3-3, Wright singled to left, advanced on a Ben Fultz bunt single and took third on Chase McDonald's infield grounder before scoring on Ginader's mistake, one of two balks by the Bulls, who also committed five errors.
The lead jumped to 5-3 when ECU pinch hitter Jonathan Holt singled to right to bring home Fultz.
In the eighth, Wright gave the Pirates some serious breathing room, blasting his second home run of the game when he took southpaw reliever Josh Edwards the opposite way to right-center field for a three-run shot and an 8-3 lead.
“I don't mind the task,” Wright said of being the team's chief home run threat this season, having hit six of his team's nine homers. “These (modified) bats are a little tougher to hit with, but if you put a good swing on it and do the right things, it really helps.”
Mincey, a former regular starter, struck out a pair, held the Bulls hitless and is now 3-0 this season.
“I feel that our team feels confident when I'm on the mound, just knowing that I'm going to go out there and help us stay in the game, especially in those long-inning relief appearances,” said Mincey, who entered the game with a 0.48 earned run average and has yielded just one run all season. “I go out there and try to keep the tempo up for the team and keep them in the game.”
Before the decisive seventh, three Pirate leads had been erased by Buffalo.
Two Buffalo throwing errors on the same play turned a routine third out in the first inning into the first Pirate run.
But ECU returned the favor in the second, committing two miscues on routine grounders to third base, and the Bulls made them pay. Michael Scarcello floated a two-out RBI single to right field to bring home Jordan Camp from second to knot the score at 1-1.
The parade of Bulls' blunders in the early innings helped the Pirates restore a one-run lead in the bottom of the third inning.
John Wooten reached on Buffalo's fourth error of the game to lead off the third, and after a Wright single and a sacrifice bunt from Ben Fultz, Wooten came home on Chase McDonald's groundout to give the Pirates the lead for the second time, 2-1.
After four innings, the two teams had combined for four hits and six errors.
In the top of fifth, Daniel Scahill roped an RBI single into right field to tie the game for the second time, 2-2.
ECU broke that tie in the fifth when Wright looped a high-arcing ball that just cleared the glove of leaping left fielder Jason Kanzler and the top of the wall for a solo homer, Wright's fifth long ball of the season, and a 3-2 ECU edge.
Buffalo deadlocked it again in the top of the seventh, 3-3, after Alex Baldock planted an RBI single in right field off reliever Joseph Hughes.
Contact Nathan Summers at firstname.lastname@example.org or (252)329-9595.