Watkins’ Walk-Off Homer Lifts ECU Past Virginia, 8-6

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (ECU Media Relations) – Travis Watkins’ three-run walk-off home run highlighted a five-run ninth inning as No. 3 seed East Carolina defeated top seed and host Virginia 8-6 Saturday afternoon in the Charlottesville Regional at Davenport Field.

With the win, ECU (36-21-1) advances to its first regional final since 2011 (also Charlottesville Regional) and will play the winner between William & Mary and Virginia Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. (ET). The Pirates are one win away from reaching their fourth Super Regional in program history with the last coming in 2009.

Trailing 6-3 going to the home half of the ninth, ECU sent six batters to the plate recording five hits and scoring five runs for its fourth walk-off win of the season. Kirk Morgan got the frame going with an infield pinch-hit single. He was immediately lifted for Wesley Phillips as a pinch runner just before Parker Lamm scorched a double down the left field line scoring Phillips. Charlie Yorgen followed with a singled to right field plating Lamm and pulling the Pirates within one, 6-5.

Dwanya Williams-Sutton kept the rally going with ECU’s fourth-straight hit of the inning, a single to left field, that put runners on first and second with no outs. Turner Brown dropped a sac bunt down the third base line moving Yorgen and Williams-Sutton into scoring position for Watkins. The red-shirt junior took a 1-1 offering from Tommy Doyle over the left field wall for an 8-6 walk-off win – ECU’s first in regional play since Devin Harris’ RBI single in the 10th inning over South Carolina in the Greenville Regional.

Joe Ingle (6-3) picked up the win in relief tossing 1.2 scoreless innings with three strikeouts and one walk. Starter Jimmy Boyd battled going 4.2 innings where he allowed four runs (all earned) on six hits with a pair of strikeouts and one walk. Matt Bridges surrendered a run (earned) on one hits in 2.2 innings, while Sam Lanier gave up a run (earned) without recording an out.

Doyle (2-6) suffered the loss allowing the five runs in the ninth inning (all earned) on five hits while recording a pair of strikeouts. Connor Jones surrendered three runs (two earned) on nine hits with three strikeouts and one walk in 5.1 innings. Tyler Shambora worked a scoreless 1.2 innings of relief bridging the gap from Jones to Doyle.

ECU’s defense flashed the leather on the day robbing Virginia of three base hits including a potential home run off the bat of Daniel Pinero. Turner Brown snagged a Pinerio hot grounder deep in the hole to start the second inning. Two batters later, Lamm made a diving catch in right field robbing Cody of a potential double. But the highlight of the day came from Williams-Sutton, who robbed Pinero of a home run leaping nearly two-feet over the left field wall to start the sixth inning.

For the second-straight game, ECU jumped out to an early 1-0 lead scoring in the bottom of the first. Lamm reached on an error and Yorgen pushed him to third on a double down the right field line. Williams-Sutton loaded the bases with a walk before Lamm scored on Brown’s groundout double play.

Virginia responded with four runs in the top of the third taking a 4-1 lead. Matt Thaiss doubled to left field plating Cameron Simmons and Ernie Clement just before Pavin Smith blasted the first of two home runs – a two-run shot to right field.

Brown’s RBI ground out in the bottom of the third pulled the Pirates within two, 4-2. Lamm singled up the middle and Yorgen reached on an infield single back to the pitcher to start the frame. A Jones wild pitch moved both runners up 90 feet and Brown’s ground out to first pushed Lamm across for the second time in the contest.

ECU pulled within one, 4-3, in the bottom of the sixth on Luke Bolka’s sac fly. With the bases full of Pirates (Harman/first, Tyler/second and Brooks/third), Bolka had a 12-pitch at-bat where he lifted a full-count offering to left field off Jones easily plating Brooks.

Smith belted his second homer of the game with a solo shot off Bridges to left field extending the Cavaliers lead to 5-3. After a Pirate pitching change, Pinero drew a walk and took third on Adam Haseley’s single through the right side. ECU went to its bullpen again bringing in Ingle, who allowed Pinero to score on Charlie Cody’s sac fly to right pushing the lead to 6-3.

ECU out-hit Virginia 15 to eight on the night getting multiple hits from Brooks (three), Lamm (two), Williams-Sutton (two) and Yorgen (four). In all, seven of the Pirates staring nine has base knocks while five drove in all eight runs. Watkins led the club with three RBI, all of which came on his fourth homer of the season.

Clement led the Cavaliers with three hits, while Smith had two – both coming via the long ball. Smith had a team-high three RBI and Thaiss added a pair on his double in the third frame.

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