TAMPA — Junior RHP Danny Beal turned in his most important relief effort of the season Thursday night as No. 15 East Carolina rallied from an early three-run deficit to down South Florida 8-3 in the teams’ series opener at the USF Baseball Stadium.
The Pirates (39-15, 16-6 AAC) kept hot on Houston’s tail for the conference lead, entering the weekend just a half game behind the Cougars in the league standings. The Bulls (19-35, 7-15 AAC) dropped their third-straight AAC decision. ECU has won eight of its last nine games overall and eight straight in conference play.
Beal (6-1) went a career-long 6.1 innings without allowing a run to earn the victory as he scattered three hits and struck out six batters against just one walk. Jack Cebert (4-4) was tagged with the loss, surrendering four runs on seven hits in 4.1 frames of work.
Carter Cunningham sparked the Pirate offense with three hits, two runs scored and two RBI while Joey Berini also drove in a pair of runs. Bobby Boser and Joaquin Monque paced South Florida with two hits apiece.
Boser singled to center to lead off the bottom of the first inning before Drew Brutcher went yard over the left field fence to put USF on top 2-0. Monque added onto the lead with a sac fly that left the Bulls up three after one complete.
East Carolina knotted up the score at three in the top of the fourth. Cunningham began the rally with a leadoff single, moved to second on a fly ball to center and scored on a Justin Wilcoxen single to right. Jacob Jenkins-Cowart kept the line moving with a single of his own and Nowak reached on a fielder’s choice to put runners at the corners with two outs. Makarewicz would then draw a big walk to load the bases for Berini who shot a single up the middle and over second base to plate both Wilcoxen and Nowak to get the Pirates back on even terms.
With Beal dialed in on the mound, ECU took the lead for good in the top of the fifth via back-to-back one-out doubles out of Cunningham and Josh Moylan, making it a 4-3 contest.
The Pirates iced the game in the eighth with a four spot. Ryley Johnson got things going with a leadoff infield single and promptly stole second. Makarewicz would come up with a one-out sac fly to score Johnson who had moved to third on a groundout. Berini then singled and Jacob Starling walked to give East Carolina runners at first and second with two outs before Lane Hoover put a ball in play that was booted at short and allowed Berini to score and increase the Pirate lead to 6-3. Cunningham provided the knockout blow with a two-run double to right field.
Landon Ginn mopped up in the bottom of the ninth, working around a one-out single to preserve the win.
- East Carolina won its fifth straight in the series with South Florida.
- The Pirates went over .500 in true road games, improving to 10-9.
- The Bulls finished the game 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
- ECU notched double-digit hits for the third-straight outing.
- Cunningham rapped out multiple doubles in a contest for the first time in his career.
Up Next: East Carolina attempts to win its 40th game of the season when the series resumes Friday evening at 5 p.m.