GREENVILLE, N.C. – A three-run home run off the bat of Thomas Francisco in the sixth inning gave East Carolina a lead it would not relinquish as the Pirates defeated Norfolk State 8-5 in the opening contest of the 2021 NCAA Greenville Regional Friday afternoon at Clark-LeClair Stadium.
Josh Moylan notched a pair of hits while Francisco paced all players with three RBI. Connor Norby and Francisco also scored a pair of runs apiece. Jacob Council led the Spartans offensively, going 2-for-3 with a run scored and one driven in.
A.J. Wilson (1-0) was victorious in his first decision of the season, tossing 0.2 scoreless innings with two strikeouts. James Deloatch (7-3) was tagged with the loss after surrendering six runs (four earned) on six hits with six walks and three strikeouts in 5.2 frames of work. Matt Bridges picked up his fourth save of the year by recording the final out of the game with the bases loaded.
Norfolk State (25-27) struck for the contest’s opening run in the top of the first. Dionte Brown led off the proceedings with a bunt single before moving to third on a single by Alsander Womack. Danny Hosley then poked a grounder to second, allowing Brown to cross home on the fielder’s choice play. East Carolina starter Carson Whisenhunt recovered to retire the final two Spartan batters, keeping the Pirate deficit at one.
ECU (42-15) responded in the home half of the first. Norby led things off with a sharp single down the right field line before Bryson Worrell drew a two-out walk. Moylan then put a ball in play and chaos ensued as a pair of Norfolk State throwing errors resulted in Norby and Worrell both crossing the plate to put the Pirates on top by a 2-1 margin.
After both teams were unable to capitalize on scoring opportunities in the second inning, the Spartans reclaimed the lead in the top of the fourth. Three consecutive singles to begin the stanza, the last by Council, tied the game at two before Mason Velasquez scored on an unofficial strikeout/caught stealing double play to make it 3-2.
Moylan nearly propelled East Carolina into the lead in the bottom of the fifth. With two outs on the board and Francisco at third, Moylan drilled a 1-1 offering off the top of the wall in left for an RBI double that drew the Pirates on level terms.
A two-out balk charged to Wilson allowed Ty Hanchey to score and give the Spartans a 4-3 advantage in the top of the sixth, but ECU answered in a big way in the bottom of the frame. Seth Cadell produced a leadoff walk and moved to third on a pair of groundouts. Norby then walked and stole second before Francisco worked a full count and launched the sixth pitch of the at bat over the wall in right to afford the Pirates a 6-4 edge. A passed ball later scored Zach Agnos to leave East Carolina with a 7-4 lead through six complete.
Agnos scored his second run of the day in the bottom of the eighth via a passed ball, sending the game to the final inning with ECU in front by four. The Spartans loaded the bases in the top of the ninth and scored thanks to a Womack RBI single, but Bridges slammed the door shut by inducing a game-ending fly ball to left.