Ben Fultz hit a sac fly in the bottom of the 13th inning to give East Carolina a series sweep over UAB Sunday.
With the game knotted at five heading to the bottom of the 13th, Drew Reynolds was hit by a Ryan Nance pitch to start the frame. Corey Thompson followed by delivering a single to right-field on a perfectly-executed hit-and-run play. The base knock put runners at the corners with nobody out. The Blazers elected to intentionally walk John Wooten to set up force plays at every bag before Fultz followed with a fly ball to center, plenty deep enough to plate Reynolds, who tagged up from third for the game-winning run.
ECU trailed UAB by three runs heading into the bottom of the ninth. Fultz laced a one-out double to left to start the rally and Zach Wright followed by drawing a walk. Bryan Bass followed with an infield single to load the bases and put the potential game-tying run on the base paths.
UAB reliever Ryan Nance struck out Tim Younger for the second out of the inning before throwing a wild pitch, which scored Fultz and trimmed ECU’s deficit to 5-3. Wright and Bass moved into scoring position on Nance’s errant offering.
Pinch-hitter Chase McDonald, who was batting .193 on the season, fought off a 1-2 breaking ball and delivered a game-tying, two-run single into center field.
Reynolds (2-0) earned the victory on the mound for the Pirates, tossing four shutout innings of relief where he struck out a career-best six batters facing two over the minimum. Nance (2-1) suffered the loss for the Blazers after giving up four runs on five hits, walking two, and striking out three in 4 2/3 frames.
The visitors raced out to a 2-0 lead in the first behind an RBI single from John Frost (2-for-5) and a run-scoring double courtesy of Patrick Palmeiro (2-for-6, 2 RBIs).
UAB extended its lead to 3-0 in the second after Ryan Prinzing drove in Ryan Ussery with a single.
The Blazers chased ECU starter Jharel Cotton in the top of the third. UAB touched the junior right-hander for three runs on six hits in two innings of work. Andy Smithmyer relieved Cotton and pitched effectively, allowing just two runs (one earned) and striking out one in four innings of relief.
East Carolina scored its first run of the afternoon in the fourth. Reynolds (3-for-5) roped a double to the gap in left-center and eventually scored on John Wooten’s RBI groundout.
UAB built its lead to 5-1 with single runs in the fifth and sixth stanzas before Wooten (2-for-5, 2 RBIs) cut into the lead with a solo home run (fifth of the season) over the wall in left in the bottom of the seventh.
Michael Busby was outstanding in his effort on the mound for the Blazers, allowing just a pair of runs on six hits in 7 2/3 frames before handing the ball to Nance.
Tanner Merritt (2.2 IP, three strikeouts) and Jake Harris (0.1 IP) bridged the gap between Smithmyer and Reynolds, retiring all nine batters they faced. On the afternoon, the Pirates bullpen allowed two runs (one earned) in 11 innings and from the seventh frame until the 13th allowed just two base runners (walk and single) while striking out nine.
The Pirates recorded their seventh-straight win at home, fifth come from behind victory when trailing after six innings and improved to 7-3 in one-run games on the season. Offensively they pounded out 11 hits, nine after the sixth inning, with Bass (two hits), Reynolds (three) and Wooten (two) each collecting multiple base knocks.
East Carolina returns to the diamond on Tuesday, Apr. 3 when it travels to instate foe UNC Wilmington. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. (EST).
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