Hunter Allen and Luke Lowery were both 2-for-4 and East Carolina closer Joe Ingle worked out of two bases-loaded situations to lead the Pirates to a 4-2 win against UConn in the semifinal round of the 2015 American Athletic Conference Baseball Championship Saturday at Bright House Field.
The No. 2-seeded Pirates advance to Sunday’s championship game, where they will face top-seeded Houston at 12 noon (ET) on ESPNU. Houston went 2-1 against East Carolina in the schools’ regular-season series. Sunday’s game will be East Carolina’s first appearance in a conference tournament final since the 2007 Conference USA Championship as the Pirates look for their first tournament title since 2002.
Ingle inherited a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the eighth inning to escape unscathed, and retired the first two men he faced in the ninth before UConn was able to get the next three men on. Ingle got Max McDowell to fly out to left, however, to pick up his second save of the tournament and his eighth of the season – a new ECU Freshman record.
ECU jumped out of the gates with a pair of runs as UConn’s starting pitcher, William Montgomery walked the first three hitters. The Huskies made a quick pitching change, but the Pirates got on the board as Kirk Morgan’s grounder to shortstop brought home Allen. Lowery followed with a base hit to center to make it 2-0, but Samuel Nepiarsky struck out the next two batters to mitigate the damage.
UConn got one back in the bottom of the first when Blake Davey’s double to right-center scored Jack Sundberg, who led off with a single.
The Pirates gained a 3-1 lead in the top of the fifth after Allen drilled a one-out triple down the leftfield line and scored on Charlie Yorgen’s suicide squeeze bunt.
The game was delayed for two hours and 37 minutes in the top of the eighth inning due to thunderstorms in the area.
Following the delay, Lowery took the first offering from reliever Trevor Holmes to leftfield. Parker Lamm, who pinch ran for Reid Love on second, stopped at third, but was able to score after the throw from the outfield sailed wide, giving East Carolina a 4-1 cushion.
The Huskies loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth, but the Pirates turned to Ingle for a four-out save. Ingle jammed Jon Testani, who hit a soft flair to second, and Yorgen made a barehanded stab and throw to strand the three runners.
ECU starter Jacob Wolfe (5-2) picked up the win after he worked seven innings and allowed one run with six strikeouts. The Pirates improved to 39-20 on the year with their seventh-straight victory.
Nepiarsky was a stalwart out of the bullpen for UConn as he worked 6.1 innings and scattered three hits and allowed one run in a no-decision. Montgomerie took the loss, falling to 3-2.
UConn had a 10-6 advantage in hits as four players finished with two hits each.