Pirates one win away from regional title
By News-Argus Staff
Published in Sports on June 7, 2004 1:56 PM
KINSTON -- Rain poured down at Grainger Stadium in Kinston Sunday and the first pitch of the day's action in the NCAA Kinston regional was thrown at 5:28 p.m. instead of the scheduled 3 o'clock start.
From there, East Carolina poured it on.
The Pirates' offense sprung to life and registered 15 hits as East Carolina took a decisive 11-4 victory over UNC-Wilmington Sunday. The win improves ECU's postseason record to 2-0 and puts them just one more win away from advancing to the NCAA Super Regional round.
East Carolina was to play UNC-Wilmington in the championship game today starting at noon. East Carolina would have to lose twice to not advance to a super regional matchup against South Carolina.
Brody Taylor took the win for ECU, staying undefeated at 8-0 on the season. In the game, the lefty gave up three runs and scattered ten hits in 6 2/3 innings.
The Pirate bats gave Brody the help he needed. Ryan Jones hit a two-run home run to right field in the fifth to give the Pirates a 4-1 cushion and they never looked back from there. In the seventh inning the Pirates really opened up, shelling the Seahawk pitching staff for six runs on six hits including five RBIs and one error.
East Carolina went into the bottom of the seventh holding an 11-2 advantage and the Seahawks only added two runs to the scoreboard in the rest of the game.
Drew Costanzo was the leading hitter, going four-for-four with an RBI.
Jones, Trevor Lawhorn, and Mark Minicozzi all had two RBI. Minicozzi hit the other Pirate home run, a solo shot to left center in the sixth.
ECU put runs on the board in five of the nine innings, and batted in 10 of their 11 runs in an efficient show of the bats.
The win gives ECU (50-11) the 2-1 edge on the season against the rival Seahawks and also avenges the loss that ended their 19-game winning streak during the regular season.
Pirates coach Randy Mazey was ecstatic about the win.
"It was a huge game and that is as big a game as I have ever coached in. I don't know if the team knows it, but that is the biggest game that they have ever played in."
UNC-Wilmington put five pitchers on the mound, but couldn't stop the Pirates from scoring. The Seahawks couldn't capitalize on 12 hits, stranding six runners and falling victim to three Pirate double plays.
ECU now has turned five double plays while recording just one error for the regional.
Matt Poulk went three-for-four to lead the Seahawks. Chip Grawey hit a solo home run in the fifth, but it was the biggest swing the Seahawks could muster. John Raynor, former Kinston High standout Chris Hatcher and former Eastern Wayne High School catcher Pat Murphy all recorded an RBI in the losing effort.
Ronald Hill started on the mound for Wilmington (39-22) and took the loss, giving up four runs on seven hits, walking two and striking out one.
"I felt like we swung the bat pretty well today, but it definitely wasn't good enough," Seahawks coach Mark Scalf said. "We knew we were going to have to pitch very, very well. They didn't miss very many mistakes today. We made some mistakes out over the plate, and they didn't miss them."
ECU will be well-rested for today's game with the Super Regional on the line. Mazey admitted they were in a favorable position with the win, but also said "the tournament isn't over by any stretch of the imagination. We are going to go and get a good night's rest and come out and be ready for a huge battle tomorrow."
East Carolina 010 121 600 -- 11 15 1
UNC-Wilmington 010 010 101 -- 4 12 1
Leading Hitters -- East Carolina -- Drew Costanzo 4-4 (RBI, 3B), Ryan Norwood 3-4 (2B), Mark Minicozzi 2-3 (2 RBI, HR, 2B), Ryan Jones 2-4 (2 RBI, HR), Trevor Lawhorn 1-4 (2 RBI, 2B), Mike Grace 1-4 (RBI), John Poppert 1-5. UNC-Wilmington -- Matt Poulk 3-4 (2B), Lee McLean 2-4, Pat Murphy 1-1 (RBI), Chris Hatcher 1-3 (RBI), Tim Preston 1-3, John Raynor 1-4 (RBI), Matt Sutton 1-4, Aaron Smith 1-4, Chip Grawey 1-5 (HR, RBI). Winning Pitcher -- Brody Taylor (8-0). Losing Pitcher -- Ronald Hill (12-4).
Stony Brook 0
The Volunteers and Seawolves played a tough game Sunday morning, but in the end an RBI double by Alex Suarez ended Stony Brook's season and kept Tennessee alive.
Kevin Fitzgerald and Luke Hochevar dueled the entire game on the mound, but Hochevar scattered eight hits and struck out four in shutting out the Seawolves to take a win the Volunteers definitely needed. Fitzgerald gave up one run on six hits, walked one and struck out five.
Stephen Didsbury was two-for-three and Matt Devins was two-for-four in the losing effort at the plate as the Seawolves stranded five runners and gave up two double plays.
The leading hitter for Tennessee was Kyle Norrid at three-for-four, but Suarez's one-for-four effort produced the RBI that made the difference. The RBI double scored Eric King broke a scoreless stalemate in the top of the eighth.
Suarez said of the deciding at-bat, "He threw me a fastball in and I was able to turn on it, get my bat on it and get it out there."
Tennessee coach Rod Delmonico said, "Hochevar pitched a heck of a game and that was it. We got a timely hit with Suarez and that was pretty much the game."
Stony Brook coach Matt Senk was positive.
"That was a great college baseball game out there to say the least. To come up on the short end of that is very disappointing, but I am proud of Kevin and equally as proud of our team, of how they played today, how they played in the two games of this regional and the entire season."
Stony Brook's season ended with a 29-27 record after they won the America East Conference Championship. Tennessee advanced to the late nightcap against UNC-Wilmington.
UNC Wilmington 4, Tennessee 3
UNC Wilmington pushed two runs across in the bottom of the ninth to steal a 4-3 win over the SEC representative late Sunday in a game that ended just after midnight.
The Seahawks got just under 12 hours rest before facing East Carolina today in the regional championship game.
The late rally made a winner out of Blake Cross, who relieved starter Zach Booker in the fifth inning. Craig Cobb took the loss for the Volunteers.
Chip Grawey was 2-for-4 for the Seahawks, while Tim Preston, John Raynor and Matt Poulk had RBI for UNC Wilmington. Eric King drove in a pair of runs with a pair of doubles to pace the Tennessee offense.
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