GREENVILLE, N.C. – East Carolina scored five runs in its final two at bats Saturday night to erase a three-run deficit and down Charlotte 7-5 inside a sold-out Clark-LeClair Stadium in the winner’s bracket game of the 2021 NCAA Greenville Regional.
The top-seeded Pirates (43-15) make their way to the regional championship game where they will face either the No. 2 seed 49ers (40-20) or No. 3 seed Maryland ( 29-17) Sunday at 6 p.m. Whichever team emerges from Sunday’s first contest, slated for noon, will have to beat ECU twice to claim its place in the super regional round.
Matt Bridges (5-0) was spectacular in relief, throwing the final 2.1 innings and allowing no runs on one hit with three strikeouts and no walks. Gavin Williams started the contest and went six innings, giving up five runs on seven hits with nine strikeouts against just one walk. He is now fourth on the Pirate single-season list in strikeouts with 117. Bryce McGowan (7-5) was tagged with the loss, surrendering three runs on three hits with three walks and no strikeouts in two innings of work.
Connor Norby and Alec Makarewicz posted a pair of hits each while Lane Hoover drove in the winning run as part of a two-RBI performance. Norby became the fastest player in program history to record 100 hits in a campaign, doing it in just 58 contests. Aaron McKeithan went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI to pace Charlotte.
East Carolina grabbed a quick 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Norby led off with an infield single before moving to second on a groundout. With two away, Norby stole third and scored on a Makarewicz single to left.
Following a quiet second inning, the 49ers struck for a quartet of two-out runs in the top of the third to seize control. McKeithan got the rally started with a one-out double while LuJames Groover and Nate Furman notched a pair of two-run singles to leave the visitors with a 4-1 advantage. Josh Moylan drew the Pirates to within two with an RBI groundout in the home half of the frame.
Neither team could dent the scoreboard in the middle innings, setting up the dramatic ending. McKeithan began the seventh with a solo blast to left, re-establishing Charlotte’s three-run cushion. Bridges would take the mound with two outs in the stanza, fanning Will Butcher looking to strand a pair of 49er runners.
The bottom of the seventh started auspiciously for ECU as Bryson Worrell drew a full-count walk and Hoover was hit by a pitch. McGowan entered the game at that point and uncorked a wild pitch that moved the runners into scoring position. Caddell drove Worrell in with a groundout and freshman pinch hitter Joey Berini delivered an RBI single to plate Hoover and slice the Charlotte edge to one.
Bridges remained solid, initiating a double play in the top of the eighth and taking care of the third out himself by snagging a grounder and tagging the first-base bag just ahead of Todd Elwood.
East Carolina grabbed the lead for good in the bottom of the inning. With one away, Makarewicz walked on four pitches and Zach Agnos followed suit with a full-count free pass. Worrell set the Clark-LeClair crowd on fire with a run-scoring double down the left-field line that tied the score, and Hoover finished the job with a two-run single to shallow center that plated Agnos and Worrell for the winning tallies. Bridges ended the contest with aplomb, fanning McKeithan and Carson Johnson before inducing a grounder to first.