GREENVILLE, N.C. - Zach Wright’s bases-clearing double in the bottom of the seventh broke a three-all tie and East Carolina held on for a 6-3 victory over Marshall Sunday afternoon in Conference USA action at Lewis Field inside Clark-LeClair Stadium. With the win, the Pirates claim their second league sweep of the season and enter their final week of C-USA action in third place.
After Marshall had scored a pair of runs to tie the game in the top of the seventh, the middle of East Carolina’s lineup provided the difference in the contest. Drew Reynolds singled up the middle with one out to spark the rally. Corey Thompson followed with a double to left, which put runners at second and third for John Wooten. Marshall elected to intentionally walk Wooten, loading the bases for Wright. The senior catcher drove a 1-1 offering from Ryan Hopkins (1-3) to left for a three-run double, giving ECU a 6-3 advantage.
Jake Harris pitched a perfect eighth and Reynolds struck out the side in the ninth to preserve the 6-3 triumph. Reynolds earned his 10th save of the season, a mark which ties Tulane’s D.J. Ponder atop the standings.
The Pirates (31-16-1, 13-7-1) squandered a 3-1 lead in the top of the seventh as Marshall (15-31, 3-15) plated a pair of runs to knot the score at three before Wright’s heroics.
Andrew Dundon singled off Jeff Hoffman to begin the frame. Gray Stafford followed with a chopper back to Hoffman, whose throw sailed high of Chase McDonald at first, putting runners at second and third with no outs. Thor Meeks delivered a sacrifice fly that scored Dundon before John Gandolfo laced an RBI double to right, which tied the game.
Despite allowing the two seventh-inning runs, Hoffman (2-1) earned the win for East Carolina. The freshman right-hander surrendered two runs (one earned) on a pair of hits in 2 1/3 stanzas.
East Carolina took a 1-0 lead in the third. Following Tim Younger’s two-out double down the right-field line, Reynolds delivered an RBI single to give the Pirates an early cushion, one they would extend in the fourth.
Wooten and Wright recorded back-to-back singles to lead off the frame and advanced to second and third, respectively, after Jack Reinheimer’s sacrifice bunt. Marshall starter Mike Mason retired McDonald on a groundout before Philip Clark’s RBI single up the middle, staking ECU to a 2-0 edge.
Cotton faced just one batter over the minimum through 4 2/3 innings before Marshall plated a run against him in the fifth. After Stafford’s triple to center – the first hit of the game The Herd – Cotton walked Meeks and Gandolfo, loading the bases for Ballou. A 1-0 fastball grazed Ballou’s jersey allowing Stafford to score from third.
Hoffman relieved Cotton and escaped further damage by retiring Sergio Leon on a groundout to Reinheimer. Cotton allowed one run (earned) on one hit in 4 2/3 innings. The St. Thomas, Virgin Islands native walked four and struck out four.
The Pirates pushed their lead to 3-1 in the sixth. Wright singled up the middle and later advanced to second on McDonald’s two-out walk. Marshall lifted Mason for left-handed reliever Wayland Moore, who allowed an RBI single to Clark, who legged out a ground ball that was fielded by Dundon behind the second-base bag. Dundon’s throw to first was late and Wright sped around all the way from second and beat the throw home to give ECU a 3-1 advantage.
Mason yielded three runs (all earned) and scattered nine hits in 5 2/3 frames. The southpaw walked a pair and struck out one.
Marshall right-hander Matt Margaritonda worked the final 1 2/3 innings and allowed one hit, walked one, and struck out two.
Reynolds led all Pirate hitters by matching his career-high with a four-hit performance. Thompson (2-for-5), Wright (3-for-4, 3 RBI) and Clark (2-for-4, 2 RBI) also had multi-hit games.
Fultz, Wooten and Younger each had a single, helping East Carolina’s 14-hit attack.
Cotton, Hoffman, Harris and Reynolds combined to limit Marshall to just three hits. The quartet struck out eight Marshall batters on the afternoon.
East Carolina returns to action for a pair of midweek, in-state contests. The Pirates host Elon Tuesday, May 8 before welcoming North Carolina to Greenville Wednesday, May 9. First pitch for both games is scheduled for 6 p.m. (EST).