An admirable run in the NCAA baseball tournament by East Carolina came to a screeching halt on Sunday afternoon.
The Pirates were one win shy of making the College World Series for the first time, but instead No. 5 national seed Texas Tech grabbed the CWS spot with an early offensive onslaught for an 11-0 win in the winner-take-all game of the super regional series.
It was far less competitive than Saturday’s thriller, which lasted four hours and 56 minutes and needed 13 innings for Tech (46-18) to win 3-1 to create the finale with a trip to Omaha, Neb., on the line. The powerful Red Raiders cranked out 14 hits in Game 3, and ECU was limited to two singles.
Pirates starting pitcher Jacob Wolfe recorded just one out, loading the bases before that happened, and he ended up being charged with three runs on three hits with two walks and a strikeout. The hosts added three runs in third for an early 6-0 advantage that took a lot of steam out of the Pirates’ hopes of finally breaking through and getting to the CWS in their 28th NCAA appearance.
“When you draw it up as a coach, you want to get the momentum and not give 5,000 Texas Tech fans the momentum,” said second-year ECU coach Cliff Godwin, whose club got to the super regionals via an upset run to the Charlottesville Regional title as the No. 3 seed.
“We didn’t do a good job of that. Really when you look it, we didn’t execute offensively yesterday or today early to give us a chance.
“We had opportunities yesterday and I thought our guys felt pressure yesterday. There is a big elephant in the room because East Carolina has never been to Omaha.”
Chris Holba took over for Wolfe and helped ECU (38-23-1) get out of the first inning, but he ended up yielding three runs in two innings. East Carolina used seven pitchers in the game.
Texas Tech’s six runs during the first three frames were scored, one apiece, by its first six players in the batting order.
The Pirates came into the series with an 0-6 record in super regional games, so Friday’s 8-6 win still means this team is as close as East Carolina has ever been to Omaha. Texas Tech made it for the first time in 2014.
“We were the first team to ever win a super regional (game) at East Carolina, and that’s a huge accomplishment,” senior outfielder Parker Lamm said. “... Last year nobody thought we could do anything and we made a regional. This year we had expectations and we went to a super regional and won a game.”
Wolfe recorded his only out on his 20th pitch, striking out cleanup hitter Cory Raley looking on a 3-2 offering with the bases loaded. The junior left-hander, who came in with a 6-3 record and 2.66 ERA but has struggled recently, then walked a batter and gave up a two-run single to Eric Gutierrez.
Gutierrez, the Big 12 player of the year, also had the winning hit in Game 2. He went 2-for-2 on Sunday with two runs scored and three RBIs and was followed in the lineup by Hunter Hargrove, who was 3-for-5 with four RBIs.
Since pitching a complete game against Connecticut on May 8, Wolfe’s final four starts went a combined 11 1/3 innings in which he allowed nine earned runs.
Red Raiders starter Erikson Lanning (3-3) tossed seven scoreless innings with two singles allowed and a season-high six strikeouts with two walks. The freshman lefty struck out the side in order in the top of the third, which was part of him retiring 10 straight ECU batters while the Raider offense was busy providing him with ample run support.
“I didn’t do it alone, because we had guys at the plate just really doing what they are capable of,” Lanning said.