College baseball: ECU completes wild comeback, to face Tar Heels
By Joedy McCreary
GREENVILLE ó Devin Harris didn’t think he’d ever deliver a bigger hit for East Carolina than his game-tying homer in the ninth inning.Boy, was he wrong.
Harris singled home Kyle Roller in the bottom of the 10th to lift the Pirates past South Carolina 10-9 on Monday in an NCAA regional final.
Harris, who had four of his five RBIs in the final two innings, finished with four hits for top-seeded ECU (46-18). The Pirates capped their string of three consecutive elimination-game victories with a rally from six runs down to claim its third super regional berth and first since 2004.
“They never quit,” coach Billy Godwin said. “When we played five games in three days, to come back and win three in a row was absolutely, totally outstanding.”
So was this finish.
Roller doubled with one out in the 10th, and Brandon Henderson was intentionally walked. Two batters later, Harris sent Sam Dyson’s 3-1 pitch up the middle to score a sliding Roller well ahead of Whit Merrifield’s throw.
One inning earlier, Harris forced extras by following inning-opening walks to Henderson and Dustin Harrington with a drive over the fence in left-center to make it 9-all.
“I’ve hit a few home runs, but I’d say by far that’s the biggest I’ve ever hit,” Harris said. “Being down three and tying that game up, that really put the momentum on our side. Once that happened, I thought we had the game in the bag.”
East Carolina will play North Carolina in a best-of-three super regional series this weekend in Chapel Hill.
Scott Wingo and Jackie Bradley Jr. homered for South Carolina (40-23), which led 6-0 in the fifth. Bradley appeared to have given the Gamecocks plenty of breathing room in the eighth, when his two-run drive to right off reliever Seth Simmons gave South Carolina a 9-6 lead.
“Obviously, a three-run lead is better than a one-run lead, but the way those guys swing the bat, they’re always going to be in it,” Merrifield said.
Ryan Wood started East Carolina’s comeback with a one-out homer in the fifth that pulled the Pirates within 6-2. Trent Whitehead’s run-scoring sacrifice fly in the sixth closed the margin to 7-4, and back-to-back RBI singles by Harrington and Harris in the seventh made it a one-run game.
Merrifield, a Davie County graduate, put South Carolina ahead 1-0 in the second with a two-out single and finished with four hits.
The Gamecocks were denied their eighth super regional berth since 2000.