GREENVILLE, N.C. - Senior Kyle Roller picked a great time to record his 200th career RBI pushing home the game-winning run in the seventh inning to help East Carolina to an 8-6 win over Houston Saturday afternoon at Lewis Field inside Clark-LeClair Stadium. With the win the Pirates punch their ticket to the 2010 Conference USA Tournament, which will be held at Cougar Field in Houston, Texas, and will play top seed Rice on Wednesday, May 26 at 4 p.m. (EDT).
In a game that featured four lead changes, the Pirates (31-25, 11-13) salvaged a game in the three-game league series thanks to a three-run seventh inning. Trailing 6-5 in the seventh, ECU got RBI singles from Corey Thompson, Roller and Jared Avchen to take an 8-6 lead. Cam Freeman and Trent Whitehead drew consecutive one-out walks before Thompson’s single through the left side scored Freeman and put runner’s on first and second.
After Tanner Shiflett relieved Barry Laird in the seventh just before Roller laced a 2-0 offering down the right field line scoring Whitehead for the would be game-winning run. The Pirates tacked on an insurance run when Avchen singled home Thompson on a base knock to right field.
Brad Mincey (3-1) posted his third win of the season after working 3 2/3 innings of shutout relief allowing three hits and striking out two. Starter Shawn Armstrong went 2 1/3 innings giving up two runs (one earned) on three this with a walk and strikeout and Kevin Brandt made his fifth appearance out of the bull pen going three innings where he allowed four runs (three earned) on two hits and walked three.
Laird suffered the loss after being tagged for three runs on one hits in one-third of an inning. Eric Brooks made his ninth start of the season fanning nine batters over six innings while allowing five runs (all earned) on six hits.
Houston (24-30, 11-13) took an early 2-0 lead in the third when Joel Ansley reached on a fielding error that scored Ryan Still for the games first run. Ansley would cross home shortly after when Armstrong was called for a balk.
The Pirates answered the Cougars with a four runs in the bottom of the third stanza, taking a 4-2 lead. Thompson highlighted the inning with a three-run homer to left field, his eighth of the season. Zach Wright walked to start the frame then came around to score on Chris Gosik’s double down the right field line. Freeman followed with a single back up the middle before he and Gosik touched home on Thompson’s round-tripper.
Austin Gracey hit a two-run homer and Still scored when Ansley reached for the second time on an error giving the Cougars a 5-4 lead.
Gracey drove in his second run of the afternoon on a sac bunt that scored Chris Wallace in the sixth, before ECU plated a run in the bottom of the frame on Devin Harris’ 11th home run of the season pulling the Pirates within one, 6-5, setting up the come from behind win.
The Pirates will leave for Houston on Monday, May 24 at 7 a.m. (EDT) and will hold a morning practice at Cougar Field Tuesday at 10 a.m. (EDT) before kicking off the tournament against the Owls on Wednesday at 4 p.m. (EDT). This season the Owls swept the Pirates in three games this season and holds a 14-3 overall series record.