HOUSTON – No. 8 East Carolina rallied from an early two-run deficit to pick up a 5-4 victory over Houston Saturday night at Schroeder Park, evening the teams’ opening American Athletic Conference series at a game apiece.

The Pirates (20-7, 1-1) were buoyed offensively by two-hit efforts from Jacob Starling and Ryan McCrystal while the Cougars (13-14, 1-1) saw three players rap out a pair of base hits each. Josh Moylan chipped in with a pair of RBI as well.

Carter Spivey turned in a strong start, tossing 4.1 innings and allowing just two earned runs on seven hits with a walk and four strikeouts. Landon Ginn (1-0) earned the win in relief, yielding two runs on five hits and striking out two hitters. Danny Beal recorded a strikeout in 1.1 scoreless frames to complete his first save of the campaign.

Houston drew first blood in the bottom of the second. Cameron Nickens doubled to right field to lead things off before Justin Murray singled up the middle, allowing Nickens to score from second. Brandon Burckell followed with a single through the left side and Ian McMillan laid down a squeeze bunt to plate Murray. The Cougars had two more on base in the frame, but Jacob Jenkins-Cowart corralled a liner in right to retire the side and keep the deficit at two.

East Carolina conjured up some two-out magic in the fourth to draw itself level. Starling singled to shallow center field and Luke Nowak walked on a full count to bring up Alec Makarewicz who shot a single up the middle to send Starling home. The Cougars sailed the ball past third on the same play, affording Nowak to liberty to score and knot the contest up at two.

Houston attempted an answer in the home half of the fourth, loading the bases with a walk, single and Pirate throwing error, but Spivey tallied a strikeout and induced a foul out near third to reach the brink of escaping the jam. Zach Arnold pounded the first pitch he saw to center, but Ryley Johnson made an absolutely spectacular catch, crashing into the wall and holding on to record the third out.

The Pirates put up a carbon copy of their offensive efforts in the fifth, receiving two-out singles from Carter Cunningham and Jenkins-Cowart before Moylan shot a double down the right field line to score both runs and give ECU a 4-2 advantage.

Ginn entered in the bottom of the fifth with Cougar runners on the corners and one out, doing a masterful job of erasing the threat by coaxing a shallow fly ball to left and a grounder to short in succession. Nathan Chrismon provided the impetus for further activity on the bases in the seventh, reaching on a fielder’s choice, stealing second and moving to third on a wild pitch. Cunningham made sure his efforts did not go for naught, sending a fly ball deep enough into left for the sacrifice fly and a 5-2 East Carolina cushion.

The Cougars drew within one with a pair of solo home runs in the bottom of eighth, but with two additional runners on the bases and two away, Beal fanned Nickens swinging to keep the Pirate lead intact. The ECU righty wrapped up the save in the ninth, retiring the home side in order.

Postgame Notes Graphic
  • East Carolina has won seven of the last eight meetings with Houston.
  • The Pirates improved to 4-4 in true road games.
  • ECU posted a .385 showing (5-for-13) with two outs on the board and limited the Cougars to just two hits with runners in scoring position.
  • Houston left 12 runners on base.
  • The Pirates and Cougars combined to put nine leadoff hitters on base.

Up Next: East Carolina and Houston play the series rubber match Sunday at 2 p.m.