CINCINNATI – Behind a spectacular relief performance out of sophomore RHP Wyatt Lunsford-Shenkman, No. 14 East Carolina polished off an American Athletic Conference road series sweep of Cincinnati 6-5 in 10 innings Sunday at the UC Baseball Stadium.
The Pirates (34-14, 12-6 AAC) pulled within a half-game of Houston for first place in the league standings as the Cougars’ series finale with Wichita State was canceled due to inclement weather. The Bearcats fell to 20-27 and 8-10 with the loss.
Shenkman (3-2) was perfect in five frames of work, retiring all 15 batters he faced and using just 40 pitches to seal the win. He added three strikeouts for good measure. Griffin Hugus was tagged with the loss, surrendering the winning run in the 10th inning and allowing three hits with no walks or strikeouts in the process.
Jacob Starling paced the ECU offensive attack with a 2-for-5 performance that included two runs scored and an RBI. Jacob Jenkins-Cowart and Luke Nowak also chipped in with two RBI apiece. Josh Hegemann notched two hits while Cole Harting registered three RBI for the home side.
As it had all weekend, East Carolina put together some offense in the first inning as Lane Hoover and Starling laced consecutive doubles down the left field line and to right field to put the Pirates ahead 1-0. Starling would move to third on a fly ball to outfield before scoring on a Jenkins-Cowart sac fly to leave ECU ahead by two moving to the home half.
Cincinnati benefitted from a little luck in its part of the first, loading the bases with two outs after some miscommunication on the Pirate infield allowed a lazy pop up to fall to the turf and extend the frame. Pinch hitter CJ Dean then lined one up the middle and off Yesavage, allowing Hegemann to score from third.
ECU manufactured a couple of runs in the top of the third to establish some breathing room. Starling lined a first pitch double to left before Josh Moylan was hit by a pitch to put the Pirates in business. Starling then advanced to third on a fly ball to center and scored on a fielder’s choice to make it 3-1. Nowak would steal second after reaching on the fielder’s choice and scored all the way from the base when a failed pickoff attempt bounced off the wall in foul ground and into shallow right field. Ryan Nicholson answered in the bottom of the third with a solo homer to left, cutting the East Carolina advantage to 4-2.
With no outs and runners at first and second in the bottom of the fifth, Pirate reliver Landon Ginn looked to escape the jam when he induced a bunt pop up that he caught himself for the first out and collected the second out via a fielder’s choice, but Harting clubbed the second pitch of his at bat over the wall in right field to give the Bearcats a 5-4 advantage.
The Pirates were able to knot the score in the top of the eighth. Moylan drew a leadoff walk before pinch runner Ryley Johnson advanced to second on a wild pitch and moved to third on a fly ball to center. Nowak then fell behind 1-2 but kept fouling pitches off before putting one in play that was deep enough on the infield to plate Johnson for the tying tally.
With Lunsford-Shenkman carving up the Cincinnati order in the late innings, ECU broke through for the winning run in the 10th. Johnson shot a one-out double down the line and to the wall in right field and Jenkins-Cowart beat the shift through the left side for an RBI single. The Pirates had two runners on with two outs following a Justin Wilcoxen single to center, but a fly ball to right terminated the frame.
Lunsford-Shenkman required just four pitches to complete the job in the bottom of the 10th, coaxing two flyouts and a groundout out of the Bearcat side.
- East Carolina completed the season “Super Sweep” of Cincinnati, winning all six games in the 2023 series. The Pirates have now beaten the Bearcats 12-straight times dating back to April of 2022.
- The Pirates improved to 8-9 in true road games and won their first road series of the campaign.
- ECU is now 27-0 when scoring at least six runs in a contest.
- East Carolina moved to 8-6 in one-run games.
- Wilcoxen has recorded a hit in five-straight outings while Starling posted his team-leading 20th multi-hit effort of the campaign.
Up Next: East Carolina heads up to Norfolk Tuesday evening for a non-conference contest with Old Dominion at Harbor Park. First pitch is slated for 7 p.m.