UNC Wilmington uses one big – really big – inning to eliminate East Carolina

North Carolina-Wilmington only need to score in one inning Sunday to keep its NCAA tournament run going.

It helped that the Seahawks pounded eight hits to score nine runs in that one huge inning.

Trailing East Carolina before a five-hour, nine-minute weather delay hit, UNC-Wilmington scored nine runs in the fifth inning off ECU's bullpen and held on to shock the top-seeded Pirates, 9-7, in the Greenville Regional at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

The No. 12 national seed, East Carolina (44-18) saw its season end on its home field. The Pirates became the fifth national seed eliminated in the regionals, joining No. 7 Florida State, No. 10 Clemson, No. 15 Coastal Carolina and No. 16 N.C. State

"This sucks," East Carolina coach Cliff Godwin said. "This sucks because a lot of people put a lot of hard work and effort into this program every single day. It's tough. It's a tough pill to swallow."

The Seahawks (39-22) survive to play South Carolina (35-24) Monday at 1 p.m. The second-seeded Gamecocks can claim the regional championship with a win. If UNCW wins, a winner-take-all game for the regional title will be played at 5 p.m.

ECU had already posted three wins over UNCW this season, including Friday's 16-7 bludgeoning of the Seahawks on the regional's first day of play.

But UNCW remained confident.

"ECU is as good as a team as we've played all year," UNCW second baseman Zack Canada said. "We told all the guys as we talked, those three games won't matter if we win the fourth one. Luckily we just came out and played well. Things went right for us."

East Carolina looked in control before the lightning, followed by heavy rains, caused the lengthy delay.

The Pirates scored three times in the second inning and ECU starting pitcher Jake Agnos had allowed only two hits over the first 3 2/3 innings while striking out six. But the delay ended his day and gave UNCW a chance to come back.

"I don't think there's any doubt it made a difference," UNCW coach Mark Scalf said. "Jake was throwing the ball well."

After the delay, ECU added two runs in the top of the fifth inning to lead 5-0.

With Agnos out of the game, UNCW starting raining hits all over the field in the fifth. ECU used four pitchers to record the inning's three outs.

The Seahawks loaded the bases with no outs against Zach Barnes, who had replaced Agnos and recorded the final out of the fourth inning.

Barnes walked Greg Jones to leave ECU with a 5-1 lead before Ryan Ross replaced him on the mound.

Ryan Jeffers drove in a run with a sacrifice fly before Mason Berne made it 5-3 with a run-scoring single. Kep Brown worked the count full before lining a single to centerfield slicing the ECU lead to 5-4.

With runners on first and third with one out, Ross struck out Cole Weiss for the second out.

Trey Benton became the Pirates third pitcher of the inning and was ahead of David Sheaffer one ball and two strikes. But Sheaffer lined the next pitch into right-centerfield, driving in two runs to give UNCW a 6-5 lead.

After Connor Litton misplayed a ground ball at third for an error that kept the rally going, Canada lined a double in to the left field corner driving in two more runs for an 8-5 UNCW lead.

"We just had a rough inning," Godwin said. "We couldn't get out of it."

Noah Bridges’ single drove in the inning's final run for a 9-5 UNCW lead.

Two walks helped ECU cut into its deficit in the seventh inning. Alec Burleson drove in a run with a single and another came in on a groundout leaving UNCW up 9-7.

But UNCW pitcher Bryan Morgan stopped the rally there and then retired the Pirates without a hit in the eighth and ninth innings to complete the upset.

ECU jumped in front before the rainy weather arrived and caused the delay. The Pirates pieced together four consecutive hits during a three-run second inning.

Burleson singled, Litton doubled and Turner Brown drove both in with a single for a 2-0 ECU lead. Brown moved to second on Brady Lloyd’s single. Then Brown advanced to third on Bryant Packard’s flyout and scored on another fly ball by Dwayna Williams-Sutton for a 3-0 Pirates lead.

In their first time batting after the delay, the Pirates tacked on two more runs to take a 5-0 lead. Drew Henrickson drove in Williams-Sutton with a single and he later scored on a squeeze bunt by Burleson.

But once UNCW moved in front, the Pirates were never able to catch back up.