HOUSTON – Houston scored two in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings Friday night before plating the winning run in the 10th, downing No. 8 East Carolina 5-4 in the teams’ American Athletic Conference opener at Schroeder Park.
The Pirates (19-7, 0-1) received two-hit efforts out of Jacob Jenkins-Cowart and Ryley Johnson, but the Cougars (13-13, 1-0) rapped out 10 base knocks – five of which occurred in the final two frames. Malachi Lott went 3-for-5 for Houston while Anthony Tulimero drove in a pair of runs.
Though not factoring in the decision, ECU starter Trey Yesavage was excellent yet again as he tallied a career-high 13 strikeouts in six innings and allowed just two earned runs. Tyler Bradt (0-1) was saddled with his first loss of the season, yielding a run on two hits in just 0.1 innings of work. Justin Murray (1-0) earned the win in relief, posting 3.2 scoreless frames and four strikeouts.
East Carolina received a one-out double off the bat of Jenkins-Cowart in the top of the first, but he would be stranded at third after a groundout and strikeout. Tulimero gave Houston an early 1-0 advantage in the bottom of the second, taking a 1-2 offering over the wall in left to lead off the frame.
Jenkins-Cowart dropped a leadoff single into shallow center to start the fourth and Josh Moylan took it upon himself to erase the Pirate deficit by clearing the fence in center field to propel ECU ahead 2-1. Yesavage provided the shutdown frame in the home half, inducing a trio of groundouts.
The Pirates added a run to their advantage in the top of the sixth. With two away, Luke Nowak worked a full count before lacing a double down the left field line. Ryan McCrystal followed with a single to left center, allowing Nowak to cross the plate easily and make it a 3-1 contest. After the Cougars cut their deficit to 3-2 via a Tulimero RBI double, Johnson provided a one-out triple to dead center before scoring on a Cunningham sac fly to restore East Carolina’s two-run lead.
Murray and Brandon Burckell singled consecutively to start the Houston rally in the bottom of the ninth and moved into scoring position via a sac bunt. A groundout would score Murray to make it 4-3 and Lott doubled on an 0-2 pitch to knot the score at four.
ECU loaded the bases in the top of the 10th thanks to singles by Johnson and Lane Hoover. With one away, Moylan drew a walk to put the Pirates in business. However, Murray escaped the jam with a pair of groundouts. Cameron Nickens gave the home side the win in the 10th with a run-scoring single that plated Alex Lopez who led off the inning with a double.
- East Carolina dropped to 3-4 in true road games.
- The teams each left seven runners on base.
- Carter Cunningham hit in the leadoff spot for the first time this season.
- Yesavage became the first Pirate pitcher to strike out 13 batters in a contest since Gavin Williams in game one of the Nashville Super Regional on June 11, 2021.
- The Pirates fell for the first time in 2023 when leading after the eighth inning.
Up Next: East Carolina and Houston reconvene Saturday at 7:30 p.m. for game two of the weekend set.