TAMPA – No. 15 East Carolina moved one step closer to securing its fourth-straight American Athletic Conference regular season title Friday night, posting a stirring 6-5 comeback victory over South Florida at the USF Baseball Stadium.

The Pirates (40-15, 17-6 AAC) now need just a win Saturday morning or a Houston loss to Cincinnati later in the day to secure the crown. The Bulls (19-36, 7-16 AAC) saw their losing streak extended to four games with the setback.

Jacob Starling went 3-for-4 with three RBI to lift the ECU offense while Alec Makarewicz added two hits, two runs scored and drove in a pair of runs. Joaquin Monque paced the home side with four hits in four at-bats.

Landon Ginn (4-0) picked up the win in relief, throwing a scoreless inning with a strikeout. Jake Hunter notched his first save of the season, retiring the final USF batter to seal the win.

As it did yesterday, South Florida jumped on top in the home half of the first inning – this time via an Eric Snow home run. The Bulls added onto their lead in the bottom of the third with a wild pitch scoring Bobby Boser from third before Jackson Mayo delivered a sac fly to make it 3-0.

East Carolina drew within one in the top of the seventh. Jacob Jenkins-Cowart singled through the right side before Luke Nowak reached on a fielder’s choice and scored on a sharp double to the gap in right-center by Makarewicz. Joey Berini followed with a single to right that put runners on the corners and Starling plating Makarewicz with a groundout. Cam Clonch entered the game and drew a walk and Carter Cunningham was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but Riley Skeen was able to muster a strikeout on a full count to keep the home side ahead.

South Florida answered right back with a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh. Drew Brutcher launched a leadoff home run to right center and Ben Rozenblum chipped in with an RBI single later in the frame to leave USF up by three at 5-2.

ECU mounted a rally in the top of the eighth to get itself back into the contest. Justin Wilcoxen drew a leadoff walk and a miscue on what looked to be a routine double play saw John Montes sail the ball into shallow left field to put runners at first and second with no outs. Nowak would single to left to load the bases before Makarewicz took a 1-2 pitch off his leg for a hard-earned RBI that reduced the deficit to two.

After a strikeout, Starling came up with a massive two-run single on the first pitch he saw to knot the score at five. Nathan Chrismon then put the Pirates in front with an RBI groundout before the frame came to a close. The Bulls attempted to draw on level terms in the home half of the eighth, getting runners to first and second with two outs, but Wyatt Lunsford-Shenkman induced a liner to third that was snagged by Chrismon.

Monque led off the bottom of the ninth with a single, but he would eventually be stranded at second after Hunter came in with two away and fanned Marcus Brodil to end the game.

Postgame Notes Graphic
  • East Carolina won its 40th game during the regular season for the first time since the 2019 squad racked up 42 before the conference tournament. The Purple and Gold have now won 40 games in five-straight seasons.
  • The Pirates improved to 11-9 in true road games.
  • ECU has won six straight over South Florida.
  • East Carolina put five of its nine leadoff batters on base.
  • Starling collected his team-best 22nd multi-hit effort of the season and fifth three-hit game.

Up Next: East Carolina goes for the sweep and the AAC regular season title Saturday morning in the series finale at 10:30 a.m.