CLEARWATER, Fla. – Kirk Morgan’s RBI suicide squeeze bunt single scored Charlie Yorgen in the bottom of the ninth giving No. 8 seed ECU a 6-5 walk-off win over No. 4 seed USF Thursday night in American Athletic Conference Baseball Championship action at Spectrum Field. With the win, the Pirates improve to 31-27 overall and advanced to the semifinals for the second time in three years, while the Bulls fall to 41-16.
Matt Bridges (1-3) got the win in relief tossing a scoreless ninth inning with a walk and two strikeouts. Starter Trey Benton surrendered two runs (one earned) on three hits with a walk and four strikeouts in 3.1 innings. ECU used five pitchers in relief getting outings from Ryan Ross (0.2 IP, 1K), Chris Holba (1.2 IP, 4 Hs, 3 Rs, 1 K), Sam Lanier (0.1 IP, 1 H), West Covington (2.0 IP, 1 BB, 2 Ks) and Bridges.
Joe Cavallaro (5-3) took the loss giving up three runs (all earned) on five hits with two walks and two strikeouts in 3.1 innings of relief. Starter Shane McClanahan was touched for a pair of runs (one earned) on one hit while walking a career-high six batters with five strikeouts. Ryan Valdes (10-1) got the win allowing one run (earned) on one hit with one punch out.
Yorgen tallied a game-high three hits, scored three runs and drove in one to lead the Pirates offensively. Travis Watkins had a pair of RBI and Morgan added one – the game-winner in the ninth. Andrew Henrickson, Morgan, Eric Tyler and Dwanya Williams-Sutton also had base knocks. On the night, ECU drew eight walks to go with its seven hits.
Kevin Merrill led the Bulls with a pair of hits while also scoring twice. Luke Borders drove in a game-high three runs with a hit, while Chris Chatfield and Duke Stunkel also had run-producing hits.
How It Happened
Trailing 5-3 going to the bottom of the ninth inning, ECU scored three runs for its fourth walk-off win of the season, 6-5. Henrickson got things going when he reached on an infield single to short and took second on Luke Bolka’s walk. Yorgen followed with an RBI double down the left field line plating Henrickson for the first run. Watkins’ second RBI sac fly of the evening scored Bolka tying the game at five-all before Morgan’s RBI bunt to single to first that pushed across Yorgen for the game-winning run.
The Bulls took an early 1-0 lead in the first inning thanks to Borders’ RBI ground out. Merrell was hit by a pitch and took second on a fielding error by Yorgen at second before moving to third on a Benton wild pitch. Borders sent a 1-2 offering to second for the game’s first run.
ECU knotted the game at one-all in the home half of the first inning on a McLanahan wild pitch. Yorgen reached on an infield single with one out, stole second and on the same play moved to third on a throwing error by Andres Leal. Yorgen strolled home on a wild pitch during Spencer Brickhouse’s at-bat.
Chatfield’s seventh home run of the season – a solo shot – put the Bulls up 2-1 in the fourth inning.
The Pirates tied the game at two in the bottom of the fourth when Tyler scored on a passed ball during Brady Lloyd’s at-bat. Tyler walked to start the frame and took second on Turner Brown’s sac bunt. Williams-Sutton followed with a walk and two batters later Henrickson loaded the bases with the third free pass of the stanza.
Watkins’ sac fly RBI in the fifth gave ECU its first lead of the night, 3-2. Yorgen laced an opening frame standup triple, his second hit of the night, and darted home on Watkins’ line out to left field.
USF scored three runs with two outs in the top of the sixth to take a 5-3 lead. With two outs and runners on first and second, Stunkel doubled down the left field line scoring Chatfield and knotting the game at three-all. Borders followed with a two-RBI single to left center pushing across Merrell and Stunkel.
East Carolina advances to the semifinals on Saturday, May 27 and will face the winner of No. 1 UCF/No. 4 USF at 1 p.m. (ET), which will be streamed live on the American Digital Network.