GREENVILLE — ECU left fielder Jay Cannon settled under a fly ball on the warning track in left center for the final out in a 6-5 Pirates victory over the Wolfpack Tuesday night at Clark-LeClair Stadium.
Taut. Hard-fought. Down to the wire.
N.C. State and East Carolina got together for another Down East baseball battle, and played a game like many others in their long rivalry. The game wasn’t settled until ECU left fielder Jay Cannon settled under a fly ball on the warning track in left center for the final out in a 6-5 Pirates victory Tuesday night at Clark-LeClair Stadium.
“I like the way it ended this time,” said ECU coach Billy Godwin. “We’ve lost a lot of one-run games to them. They’ve got a great program and it was a great college baseball environment. I don’t know what more you are looking for.”
The Wolfpack (15-4) had won 10 of 11 games and climbed to as high as No. 11 in the nation. A season-high crowd of 4,714 was on hand to see if the Pirates (15-4) could snap a two-game losing streak in the series.
The Wolfpack jumped to a 3-0 lead with three in the second, but the Pirates answered with three in the third and took the lead in the back-and-forth contest with two in the sixth to go up 6-4.
Then came what has come to be expected in this series – ninth-inning dramatics. East Carolina closer Drew Reynolds, who also went 2-for-4 with two RBIs as the Pirates designated hitter, hit Trea Turner with a pitch with one out. Brett Austin then singled to put runners at first and second, and the intensity went up a notch or two.
Andrew Ciencin hit a grounder to short and Austin was forced at second, but the relay throw in an attempt at a game-ending double play bounced away from first baseman John Wooten and Turner raced home to make it 6-5. Danny Canela, the Wolfpack catcher, lifted a fly ball deep to left center, but it didn’t carry, and the Pirates had the win.
“That’s the way this series has been, one-run games, and tonight they got us,” N.C. State coach Elliott Avent said. “They came back, and we didn’t pitch quite as well as we had been pitching. In the ninth, we gave it a finish but it wasn’t quite good enough.”
East Carolina reliever Andy Smithmyer played a pivotal role, coming on in the sixth and pitching three shutout innings to pick up the win. Smithmyer (2-0) gave up just one hit, walking one and striking out five.
“It was key for him to come in and do what he did,” Godwin said of Smithmyer. “He was effectively wild in the zone. I thought that was huge for us to not have to go deeper in the bullpen.”
Reynolds was a two-way star for the Pirates, getting a two-run, two-out double in the third and picking up his seventh save of the season by pitching the ninth.
“Drew Reynolds is two things,” Godwin said. “One, he is a baseball player. Two, he is a competitor. He lives for situations like that.”
The Wolfpack got a two-run homer from Ryan Mathews in the second and two stolen bases from Turner, the NCAA leader who was a perfect 21-for-21.
The two teams meet again next Wednesday in Raleigh.