GREENVILLE — The lights beamed at Clark-LeClair Stadium throughout top seed East Carolina’s 8-5 win over No. 4 seed Norfolk State on Friday afternoon, but it took awhile for the Pirates to get the power turned on.
The biggest surge came in the sixth inning when Thomas Francisco turned on the final pitch of the game from Spartans left-hander James Deloatch (7-3) and muscled it over the right field fence for a 3-run homer and a 6-4 lead.
The game pivoted on that full-count pitch with two down and two on.
“Hats off to Deloatch,” Francisco said. “He had a lot of guys chasing. Luckily I was able to get the barrel on it. … It was a change-up. It was up in the zone. Those are the ones typically if you get a hold of, they’re going to go.”
Seth Caddell walked to start the decisive frame and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Lane Hoover. Connor Norby walked after Caddell had gone to third on a ground out to first by Ryder Giles.
Zach Agnos followed Francisco’s blast with a triple to deep center off reliever Nolan Manzer and scored on a passed ball.
The Pirates (42-15) will play again on Saturday at 6 p.m. against Charlotte, the winner of Friday’s evening game. The second-seeded 49ers outslugged third-seeded Maryland, 13-10.
Norfolk State (25-27) will face the Terrapins on Saturday at 1 p.m. in an elimination game.
ECU coach Cliff Godwin said Gavin Williams (10-0) will start on Saturday night.
Norfolk State outhit the hosts, 10-5, but hurt its cause with four errors.
The Spartans took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first after Dionte Brown opened the game with a bunt single. Brown went to second on a single by Alsander Womack and took third on the lone ECU error. He scored as Danny Hosley hit into a fielder’s choice that retired Womack at second.
The Pirates answered with a pair of runs in the bottom of the first following a leadoff single by Norby. Bryson Worrell walked with two outs. Both runners scored on a pair of errors on a ball hit to second by Josh Moylan.
Norfolk State started the fourth with singles by Ty Hanchey and Mason Velasquez. Hanchey scored on a single by Jacob Council and Velasquez came home for a 3-2 Spartans lead when Council got caught in a rundown between first and second.
ECU pulled even in the fifth after Francisco walked. He moved to second on a bunt by Zach Agnos, went to third on a ground out to first by Ryley Johnson and scored on an opposite-field double off the left field fence by Moylan.
The Spartans scored for a 4-3 lead in the sixth on a balk. Hanchey walked and Velasquez singled to move him to third. A.J. Wilson was called for a balk when Henchey broke for home.
Wilson (1-0) got the win.
“I’m just happy we won,” said ECU coach Cliff Godwin. “Norfolk State gave us everything we could handle and more. They did a great job. Their pitcher did a great job. Their hitters gave our pitchers fits.”
Deloatch threw 113 pitches in five and two-thirds innings.
“He’s actually effectively wild,” Godwin said. “He walked six guys so if you’re overly anxious, which I thought our guys were anxious today — first time playing in front of (4,266). It was the perfect storm. We did not play well.
“We did not play like ourselves. We did not fly around the field and communicate on the field like we needed to. But their guy did a really good job of just keeping us off-balance.”
Carson Whisenhunt started and went four innings for the Pirates. He allowed six hits, three runs (all earned), with one walk and four strikeouts.
Garrett Saylor followed Whisenhunt to the mound and went one and one-third innings.
Wilson recorded two strikeouts to strand a runner at third in the sixth. Cam Colmore retired six of the eight batters he faced.
C.J. Mayhue came in after a leadoff walk from Colmore in the ninth. Mayhue got two outs before the Spartans loaded the bases and got a run-scoring single from Womack. Godwin summoned Matt Bridges, who secured the final out on a fly to left for his fourth save.
The forecast was calling for rain but the sun was out by game’s end.
“The weather was outstanding,” Godwin said.