CHARLOTTE, N.C. – East Carolina rallied back from a 3-1 deficit to score four unanswered runs, three in the ninth, to steal a 5-3 victory over Charlotte in Conference USA baseball action on Friday night. The Pirates would trail 3-2 late before a single run in the eighth and three in the ninth to complete the comeback.
Charlotte (3-14-1, 0-7 C-USA) opened up scoring in the bottom of the third to take an early 1-0 lead over the Pirates. T.J. Nichting led the frame off with a single to center, his second in as many at bats, and later moved to second on a wild pitch. After a Derek Gallello groundout to short moved him to third, Zach Jarrett came up with the two out base hit to right to plate Nichting with the game’s first run.
East Carolina (11-11, 4-3 C-USA) would get that early run back in their half of the seventh as a Hunter Allen single and Dylan Brown double put runners at second and third with one out. Drew Reynolds would follow with a groundout to third hit slow enough to score Allen with the game-tying run.
The Niners came right back to score two more in their half of the seventh to take a 3-1 lead. Brett Lang started the rally with a one out walk and eventually moved to second on a wild pitch uncorked by Pirate starter Jeff Hoffman. After a Jarrett strike out by Hoffman, Eric Eason lined a single to right that would score Lang and send Elwood to third. On the very next pitch, Gallello would lace his own single to right to plate Elwood for the two-run advantage.
Again, East Carolina responded with a run in the eighth to slice the lead down to one, 3-2. Ian Townsend and Ben Fultz would put together base hits before Luke Lowery was hit by a pitch in his pinch-hit opportunity. Saturday’s game one starter Reid Love came in for a pinch-hit opportunity and reached on a fielder’s choice to score Townsend for ECU’s second tally.
Trailing by one entering the ninth, the Pirates saw put the first six runners aboard leading to a decisive three-run frame. Brown singled to right starting things off before Reynolds walked and Zach Houchins loaded the bases with his bunt single to third. Townsend tied it up at three two pitches later with his single to right before Bryce Harman drew a four-pitch walk to bring in Reynolds with the go-ahead run. Insurance in the form of an infield single in front of the plate ended up scoring Houchins for the final 5-3 margin.
Brown led East Carolina with three hits in five plate appearances as the Pirates out-hit Charlotte 11-7. Houchins, Townsend and Fultz each added two hits in the win. Ryan Williams (7-1) picked up his seventh win of the season in relief tossing the final two frames allowing one hit with a walk and two strikeouts.
“We had the lead there at the end and just couldn’t hold it,” commented Head Coach Loren Hibbs postgame. “We’ve gotten better. The thing that’s bothered me the most is I see us making progress it just hasn’t equated to a significant number of wins yet. We’re doing some positive things and again, we’re just coming up a little bit short.”
Due to incoming weather on Sunday, both teams will take part in a Saturday doubleheader beginning at 2:00 p.m. Saturday has been designated as a “whiteout” with all Niner fans encouraged to wear white for the double dip. RHP Ryan Butler (1-2, 3.38) will start game one while RHP Brock Hudgens (0-2, 3.58) in the night cap. East Carolina will send LHP Reid Love (1-1, 1.57) to the bump in game one and have yet to name a game two starter.
Tickets for Saturday’s doubleheader are available by calling the Niners ticket office at 704-687-4949 or visiting the Hayes Stadium box office starting at 1:00 p.m. One ticket will get you both games on Saturday. Live stats/video will be available courtesy of http://www.charlotte49ers.com with live, in-game updates on Twitter following @49erGameDay and @Charlotte49ers.