CLEARWATER, FL — East Carolina scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to rally past South Florida for a 6-5 victory in the winners’ bracket of the American Athletic Conference tournament at Spectrum Field on Thursday night.
A bunt single by pinch hitter Kirk Morgan scored Charlie Yorgen from third base with the walk-off run for the Pirates (31-27).
Drew Henrickson started the winning inning by beating out a chopper to short for a base hit. Pinch hitter Luke Bolka drew a walk from Joe Cavallaro (5-3). Charlie Yorgen slashed a double along the left field line that scored Henrickson and drew ECU within 5-4.
Travis Watkins hit a sacrifice fly to right that brought Bolka in with the tying run and moved Yorgen to third.
With the Bulls infield drawn in, Morgan put a squeeze bunt down to the first base side on a 1-1 pitch to end the game on a high note for the Pirates.
“Proud of my guys,” said ECU skipper Cliff Godwin.
USF (41-16) took a 5-3 lead with three runs in the sixth. Duke Stunkel had an RBI double in the Bulls’ big frame and Luke Borders contributed a two-run single.
A Trey Benton pitch hit USF leadoff batter Kevin Merrell to start the game. Stunkel reached on an error and both runners advanced on a wild pitch. The Bulls took a 1-0 lead on an RBI ground out by Borders.
ECU evened the score in the bottom of the first as Yorgen singled, stole second and went to third on a throwing error. He scored on a wild pitch.
Chris Chatfield’s homer to right put the Bulls ahead 2-1 in the fourth.
Walks to Eric Tyler, Dwanya Williams-Sutton and Henrickson loaded the bases for the Pirates in the bottom of the fourth.
Tyler came home on a passed ball to tie the score at 2.
Yorgen tripled to right in the fifth and was brought in by a sacrifice fly from Watkins for a 3-2 Pirates lead.
Sam Lanier, West Covington and Matt Bridges (1-3) combined to hold USF scoreless over the final three and one-third innings.
Yorgen went 3-for-5 with a double and a triple. He scored three runs and had an RBI.
ECU plays at 1 p.m. Saturday against the winner of a Friday matchup between Central Florida and USF. A win would put the Pirates in Sunday’s championship game at noon.
Friday’s winner between UCF and USF would have to beat ECU twice on Saturday to reach the title contest.
The Pirates won the 2015 AAC Tournament.
“We’ve been here before and won it,” said Morgan, a senior. “We know we have to win it this year (to make the NCAA Tournament).”