In front a record-breaking crowd of 5,603 spectators, the largest in the history of East Carolina baseball, an exhilarating NCAA Tournament game unfolded. Unfortunately for those few Cavalier fans in attendance, the heart-stopping ending of the game went in favor of the purple and gold as Max Cotier struck out with the bases loaded in the top of the ninth to preserve East Carolina’s 4-2 victory on Saturday night at Clark-LeClair Stadium.
Just as in Virginia’s first game of the Greenville Regional against Coastal Carolina on Friday, the Cavaliers spotted their opponent a two-run lead in the second inning on a two-run home run by Josh Moylan. UVA managed to come back and win the first game, downing the Chanticleers 7-2 to set up this showdown with the Pirates in the winners’ bracket. East Carolina, winners of 19-straight contests coming into the game, refused to relinquish the lead.
East Carolina starter C.J. Mayhue began the game with four scoreless innings before finally yielding a run to the Cavaliers in the top of the fifth on a Chris Newell solo home run, Newell’s fourth-career NCAA Tournament long ball which is tied for the most in UVA history.
The Pirates answered back with another home run in the bottom half of the inning, this one coming off the bat of Justin Wilcoxen. UVA starter Brian Gursky pitched well overall, giving up three earned runs on six hits in 5.2 innings of work, but the two home runs proved fatal for the Cavaliers, who could not muster enough offense against the ECU pitching staff.
In the top of the seventh, Virginia got on the board to cut the lead back to one run as Ethan Anderson grounded out to bring home Kyle Teel, who had drawn a walk and then advanced to third on a double from Casey Saucke.
Once again, the Pirates wasted no time buffing their lead back to two runs, as Zach Agnos hit a sacrifice fly to make it 4-2 in the bottom of the seventh.
UVA had a chance to extend the ball game in the top of the ninth as Kyle Teel and Casey Saucke hit back-to-back singles to put the tying run on base with only one out. ECU inserted Zach Agnos on the mound to try to save the game. Ethan Anderson drew a walk to load the bases, but then Agnos struck out Chris Newell and Max Cotier to end the game.
Now facing elimination, Virginia will battle Coastal Carolina in a rematch on Sunday at 1pm. The loser’s season will end while the winner will go and face East Carolina in the regional final, needing to beat the Pirates twice in order to advance. The first game of the regional final will take place on Sunday while the second game would occur on Monday if necessary.