ECU was down one, had the tying and winning runs on base and All-American Alec Burleson up with two out and a chance to tie or win in the ninth inning. Burleson grounded out to end the game.
That’s how close ECU was about the entire game. One play away.
Even after the buildup from a game beginning 24 hours after it was supposed to, It felt like ECU never had momentum and was playing catch up to Quinnipiac the entire game.
The Pirates fell short against the Bobcats 5-4 in their Greenville Regional game Saturday. ECU, who never lead at any point, now falls to the losers bracket and plays NC State at noon tomorrow. Quinnipiac moves on to face Campbell at 4 p.m. It’s Quinnipiac’s first NCAA Tournament win, in only its second ever appearance (2005).
“Hell of a baseball game. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for us. Hats off to Quinnipiac,” ECU head coach Cliff Godwin said. “We had some quality at-bats. I thought they just played a little bit better than we did.”
The game was supposed to be Friday at 6 p.m., but instead took place on Saturday at 6 p.m. after three severe weather delays.
Quinnipiac started the scoring with two runs in the top of the first. The Pirates responded with two of their own in the bottom half of the inning. An RBI double for Quinnipiac made it 3-2 in the second. Two innings later, ECU responded to tie the game yet again.
Both teams traded outfield assists from their respective right fielders, Burleson, and Liam Scafariello, throwing out runners trying to score from second, keeping the game tied. A two-run blast for Scafariello in the seventh made it 5-3. ECU responded again but with just a solo home run from Bryson Worrell in the eighth. One play away.
Burleson may have made the final out but he more than did his part. Burleson went 2-for-5 at the plate with an RBI single in the first inning. He was the one who threw out a Quinnipiac runner trying to score. He threw scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth innings to keep ECU within striking distance.
That included the eighth inning when he faced the bases loaded and nobody out, and got out of it by striking out three consecutive batters with just 10 pitches.
“It was tight the whole game and (I was) just excited to be out there and able to make plays. It was fun to come in and do it for my teammates,” Burleson said.
Bryant Packard also contributed at the plate, going 3-for-5. Quinnipiac had Evan Vulgamore go 2-for-3 with a solo home run and a triple.
Jake Kuchmaner just did not have his best stuff in the opening game of the regional, and that set the tone. He only managed to go 1.1 innings (30 pitches) and gave up three runs on five hits. Kuchmaner was routinely hit hard, as four of the five hits were for extra bases.
“I would’ve been a genius if it would’ve worked out but I’m an idiot because it didn’t. I’m going to lay my head down tonight because we wouldn’t be where we are without Jake Kuchmaner. Our guys poured their heart and souls out on the field and competed for their tails off. As a coach, I’m going to sleep good tonight. I don’t know how long I’m going to sleep, but I’m going to sleep good,” Godwin said.
Godwin turned to Gavin Williams to try and stymie the Quinnipiac momentum. Williams struck out the first batter he faced and got the second to ground out and keep the Bobcats from scoring any more runs in the second inning.
Williams would finish after 2.2 innings pitched without giving up a single hit, walking two hitters only. His outing was crucial in allowing ECU to catch up in the ballgame.
The same could be said for Zach Barnes (1.0 inning, no runs, one hit), Ryder Giles (1.0 inning, no runs, one hit) and Burleson, all the pitchers used to make up for the short outing.
Things went better for Quinnipiac pitching. Chris Enns went 6.2 innings, giving up three runs. Colin Donnelly threw the final 2.1 innings of the game and allowed just one run on two hits. Donnelly had a lot of back-and-forth with ECU fans on Twitter all week leading up to the game.
It must have been destined to get an ECU-NC State matchup in Greenville this weekend. Most people just expected it to be the winner’s bracket game instead of an elimination game.
ECU will throw AAC Pitcher-of-the-Year Jake Agnos. A rivalry and elimination game packed into one, for bragging rights and for the right for your season to continue.
“I know a lot of people are mad but if we’re going to get our ass kicked, I’m going to go down with these guys every single day,” Godwin said. I don’t care what anybody says. They’ve played their ass off for me all year. And hey, they’ll do it again tomorrow.”