GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — The East Carolina baseball team has overcome one obstacle after another in 2022 to reach the Super Regionals. Now, they’ll need to do it one more time in order to keep their incredible season going.
A back-and-forth game that saw both teams take dramatic leads, only to be erased by each other, ended oddly enough on a bases-loaded single that dropped with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. Dylan Campbell dropped a single down the right-field line that scored Ivan Melendez with the winning run as Texas took a 9-8 victory on Saturday at Clark-LeClair Stadium.
One inning earlier, Campbell capped a dramatic eighth inning with a home run that seemingly gave Texas the lead for good before one last ECU rally.
After trailing 6-2 through six innings, Texas exploded for two runs in the seventh and four in the eighth to rally for an 8-7 lead, stunning the record crowd of 5,807 who came to Clark-LeClair Stadium ready to see ECU win the Super Regional and advance to its first-ever College World Series.
Now, they’ll have to hope the magic happens on Sunday or an incredible season is over.
From Friday: Welcome to the Jungle
Texas’ win ties the best-of-3 series at 1-1 with a deciding game scheduled for Sunday at 4 p.m.
ECU (46-20) got a run in the fourth before exploding for five in the fifth to take a commanding 6-2 lead. That seemingly stunned the Longhorns (46-20) but, as it turned out, didn’t knock them out.
Instead, after ECU got a run in the seventh for a 7-2 lead, the Longhorns chipped away and eventually stole the lead and the momentum.
Douglas Hodo III hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh that scored Trey Faltine, who hit a two-out double, to cut the deficit to 7-4. Then came a dramatic eighth inning where the Longhorns hit two homers to take the lead.
Murphy Stehly and Austin Todd each singled to open the eighth before Skyler Messinger hit a blast to right to tie the game at 7-7, leaving the ECU crowd stunned.
One out later, Campbell hit a solo blast to right to give the Longhorns the lead again. Texas has now hit a school record 125 homers this season.
You can never count ECU out but it wasn’t looking good with two outs in the top of the ninth. However, Jacob Starling changed all that with a solo homer to tie the game at 8-8, setting up the dramatic bottom of the ninth.
Freshman Wyatt Lunsford-Shenkman (1-1) started the ninth for ECU and gave up a lead-off single to Ivan Melendez. Todd was walked intentionally after a successful sacrifice bunt by Mitchell Daly. Messinger popped out before Silas Ardoin drew a walk to load the bases and set the stage for Campbell.
ECU has overcome the loss of star pitcher Carson Whisenhunt at the start of the season due to testing positive for a banned substance. The Pirates were also 14-13 at one point before catching fire in American Athletic Conference play to win the regular season and postseason titles en route to a nation’s-best 20-game win steak.
The Pirates will have to show that resolve again on Sunday.
ECU came into the Super Regional with the most NCAA Tournament appearances (31) without making it to the CWS. Going into Friday’s first game with Texas, ECU was 1-12 all-time in super regionals with six straight losses since head coach Cliff Godwin won his regional opener in 2016.
The Pirates trailed 2-0 in the fourth when Bryson Worrell took a 1-2 pitch to left-center for a solo homer to start the inning. The Pirates threatened further when Josh Moylan and Jacob Starling each drew two-out walks before Texas starting pitcher Lucas Gordon struck out Alec Markarewicz to end the threat.
Though the Pirates didn’t get the lead, there was definitely a momentum shift. It took full effect in the fifth.
Justin Wilcoxen and Zach Agnos each singled before Lane Hoover reached on an error to load the bases. Then Worrell, who went 4-for-5 with four runs and two RBI in Friday’s win, doubled down the left-field line. Wilcoxen and Agnos scored to give ECU a 3-2 lead.
Texas pulled Gordon for Marcus Olivarez, who promptly gave up a 1-1 pitch that Jacob Jenkins-Cowart smacked to right-center for a three-run homer and a 6-2 lead.
The blast seemingly stunned Texas, which had taken a 2-0 lead in the first inning for the second straight game.
ECU got a run in the seventh when Jenkins-Cowart, who singled to start the inning, was called safe after a wild pitch play at the plate where, after a review by officials, it was determined Jenkins-Cowart beat the tag. That made it 7-2 before Texas eventually rallied to tie and take the lead.
Worrell finished 3-for-5 with a double, homer and three RBI, while Jenkins-Cowart was 2-for-4 with his three-run homer. Hondo, Campbell and Kennedy each had three hits for Texas.
Duplanter, who pitched the final 2.2 innings with three strikeouts, a walk and Starling’s homer, got the win to improve to 3-1.