ECU baseball eliminates UCF in extra innings at AAC Tournament

ECU 7, UCF 6 (13 Innings)
Published: May. 26, 2023 at 11:39 PM EDT
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CLEARWATER, Fla. (ECU Athletics) – Facing its second extra-inning affair of the American Athletic Conference Baseball Championship, No. 15 and top-seeded East Carolina broke through in the bottom of the 13th inning as Justin Wilcoxen’s RBI single proved the deciding blow in the Pirates’ 7-6 win over UCF in an elimination game at BayCare Ballpark.

The contest was the longest in tournament history in terms of innings played.

ECU (43-16) will now face off with No. 8 seed South Florida in the tournament semifinals Saturday at 9 a.m. The Pirates will have to beat the Bulls twice to advance to Sunday’s championship game. If East Carolina is victorious Saturday morning, the if necessary game will be played later that afternoon at approximately 4 p.m.

Landon Ginn (5-0) pitched a scoreless 13th to earn the win for the Pirates, while Dom Stagliano (4-5) took the loss for UCF which saw its season end with a 33-26 overall record.

Carter Cunningham led the way for ECU offensively with a pair of hits and four RBI. Luke Nowak and Joey Berini also rapped out a pair of base knocks apiece. Ben McCabe posted three hits and two RBI for the Knights.

East Carolina put the pressure on UCF in the second inning. Cam Clonch struck out but reached on a wild pitch to lead things off before Alec Makarewicz ripped a one-out single to right that moved Clonch to third. Lane Hoover would then draw a walk thanks to a pitch clock violation on a full count and Jacob Starling laid down a perfect squeeze bunt that allowed him to reach safely and plate Clonch. Cunningham wasted little time in extending the lead, drilling the first pitch he saw over the wall in right field for a grand slam that made it 5-0.

The Knights answered right away, posting four consecutive singles to begin the third inning that resulted in their first run of the day. A double play with the bases loaded scored another before Josh Grosz fanned Nick Romano swinging to keep the advantage at three.

UCF kept chipping away at the deficit in the fourth frame as Matt Cedarburg delivered a two-out RBI single to draw the Knights within two. The designated visiting team threatened once more in the fifth, putting two runners into scoring position, but the ever-reliable Danny Beal erased UCF with a strikeout and a pop up to third base.

The Knights tied things up in the top of the seventh. Tom Josten drew a leadoff walk and Andrew Brait struck out swinging, but McCabe turned on an 0-1 pitch and hit his 19th home run of the season over the fence in right to forge a 5-5 deadlock.

With rain threatening, Hoover delivered the most important hit of the contest. Berini began the rally with a single through the left side before advancing to second on a throwing error by Najer Victor. Hoover then fouled two pitches off in a 2-1 count before lacing an RBI double to left center to put ECU ahead once more.

Following the rain delay, UCF mustered up the tying run in the top of the ninth thanks to a Romano RBI single. With two outs and the bases loaded, Berini made a fantastic grab in the hole on the left side of the infield and fired to Nathan Chrismon at third to keep the game tied.

Kyle Kramer and Trey Yesavage shut down the offenses early in the extra frames as Kramer went 3.2 innings without giving up a run while Yesavage finished with just one run allowed in 5.2 innings.

In the bottom of the 13th, Josh Moylan reached on an error and advanced to second on a single by Nowak, setting the stage for Wilcoxen, who had been intentionally walked his previous two plate appearances. The junior catcher laced the game-winning single into right field as Moylan raced home from second for the win.