GREENVILLE, N.C. - Philip Clark laced a go-ahead RBI single to right field in the bottom of the sixth to break a four-all tie and No. 25 East Carolina (15-4) held off a late rally by No. 11 N.C. State (15-4) on Tuesday night to claim a 6-5 victory at Lewis Field inside Clark-LeClair Stadium.
After relieving freshman Jeff Hoffman, who made his first career start, junior Andy Smithmyer (2-0) threw three scoreless innings of relief allowing just one hit while fanning five batters earning his second win of the season out of the bullpen. Drew Reynolds preserved the victory for the Pirates posting his team and Conference USA-best seventh save.
With the score knotted at four in the sixth, Tim Younger led off the stanza with a double down the right-field line just outside the reach of a diving Andrew Ciencin. After Ben Fultz flied out to center field for the first out of the inning, Jack Reinheimer reached on a fielder’s choice sacrifice bunt. Wolfpack pitcher D.J. Thomas fielded the ball toward the third-base line and fired it over to third in an attempt to retire Younger, but ECU’s senior second baseman beat the throw to the bag giving the Pirates runners at first and third with just one out.
Clark hit a frozen rope over Matt Bergquist’s head at second base that scored Younger and put ECU in front, 5-4. Danny Healey relieved Thomas following Clark’s base knock and walked the first batter he faced, senior Corey Thompson. He then threw a wild pitch during John Wooten’s at-bat, which allowed Reinheimer to cross home and give the Pirates a two-run cushion.
Healey and Chris Overman combined to pitch the final 2 2/3 innings for The Pack surrendering just two hits and walking three while striking out a pair.
East Carolina had runners on second and third with just one out after taking the 6-4 lead, but N.C. State prevented further damage by putting out Clark on a rundown between third and home before Heatley struck out Reynolds to keep the Wolfpack within striking distance.
It looked as if N.C. State would cut into the Pirates’ lead in the top-half of the seventh. Trea Turner – who swiped two bags moving his nation-leading total to 21 – singled up the middle on a 1-0 offering from Smithmyer to lead off the inning. Brett Austin drew a walk to put runners at first and second with nobody out. Smithmyer responded by promptly striking out Ciencin and Danny Canela. The junior college transfer got out of the jam by inducing a harmless grounder to Tim Younger off the bat of Chris Diaz.
Smithmyer saved his best work for the last three batters. With the Wolfpack still down by a pair of runs, the diminutive righty struck out Ryan Mathews, Tarran Senay and John Gianis in order before handing the ball over to Reynolds.
Reynolds retired Carlos Rodon on a chopper to Younger to begin the ninth. Once again, Turner and Austin each reached base to put the tying run on the base paths for the visitors. Ciencin hit a high chopper to Reinheimer at short who flipped to Younger for the force out. The second baseman’s throw to retire Ciencin on a double play trickled away from Wooten and Turner came around the score, which cut the Pirates’ lead to one.
Reynolds buckled down and retired Canela on a deep fly ball to Jay Cannon on the warning track in left center to end the game. The Cherryville, N.C., native finished allowing one run (earned) on one hit.
Thomas (0-1) suffered the loss on the mound for the Wolfpack yielding two runs (both earned) on four hits in 1 2/3 innings of work.
East Carolina fell behind early after Hoffman allowed four consecutive hits (three for extra-bases) to begin the second. Canela doubled and scored on a run-scoring single by Diaz before Mathews extended the lead with a towering, two-run blast to left to stake N.C. State to a 3-0 lead. Later in the inning, Bergquist walked to put runners at first and second with one out, but Hoffman responded admirably by retiring the next two batters and escaping the second with just a three-run deficit.
East Carolina evened the score in the third with a trio of two-out runs. Wooten ripped an RBI single to left before Reynolds smacked a two-run double to the gap in right-center to tie the score at three.
The Pirates grabbed the lead in the bottom of the fourth after Ben Fultz scored from second base on a Clark infield single up the middle. Bergquist fielded the chopper behind the second base bag and Fultz never stopped running as Canela was unable to handle the throw at the plate giving the Pirates a 4-3 edge.
N.C. State starter Ryan Wilkins was chased with two outs in the fourth. The junior righty was touched for four runs (all earned) on five hits in 3 2/3 stanzas. He walked one and struck out four.
The Wolfpack answered this time by plating an unearned run in the fifth tying the game at four. Canela lined a base hit off Hoffman’s leg scoring Turner.
Hoffman threw a career-high five innings allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits while issuing one free pass and striking out a pair.
Sophomore classmates Fultz, Reinheimer and Reynolds each collected two hits on the evening. Reynolds drove in a pair while Fultz and Reinheimer combined to score four of ECU’s six runs. Clark was the only other Pirate to notch a multi-hit performance as he finished 2-for-4, a mark which raised his season batting average to an impressive .344.
The Pirates hit the road on Wednesday for a non-conference matchup against Big South Conference member High Point before traveling to Orlando this weekend for their Conference USA opener with UCF.
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