GREENVILLE — Lane Hoover is one of the smallest players on the East Carolina roster, but the little right fielder from Lincolnton came up huge in a 7-5 comeback win over Charlotte on Saturday night.
Bryson Worrell set the stage for Hoover’s heroics as he ripped an eighth-inning RBI double to right field to tie the score at 5.
One-out walks to Alec Makarewicz and Zach Agnos got the crowd of 5,020 pumped and Worrell sent a slider from Bryce McGowan to the right field corner to put Agnos at third with the go-ahead run.
Charlotte brought its infield in and Hoover’s single to shallow center brought in the deciding runs.
Matt Bridges (5-0) pitched the last two and one-third innings for the win. He faced the minimum of seven batters with the help of an inning-ending double play in the eighth.
“It was something special with all the fans coming out tonight,” Bridges said. ” … Hopefully, Pirate Nation will be back tomorrow night.”
ECU (43-15) can wrap up the regional title with a victory on Sunday in a 6 p.m. game against the winner of a noon game on Sunday between Charlotte (40-20) and Maryland (29-17). The Terps eliminated Norfolk State, 16-0, in the first game Saturday.
An ECU loss Sunday night would require a deciding game on Monday at 1 p.m.
The Pirates played from behind for much of the way on Saturday night.
The 49ers scored four runs in the third for a 4-1 lead on a pair of 2-run singles from James Groover III and Nate Furman.
ECU had taken a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first after leadoff batter Connor Norby reached on an infield hit. He went to second on a ground out to first by Thomas Francisco and stole third. Norby scored on a 2-out single to left by Alec Makarewicz.
Norby bunted his way aboard in the third inning and got to third base when the catcher’s throw was wide of first. He came home on a ground out to first by Josh Moylan to cut the lead to 4-2.
Gavin Williams was pulled after yielding a leadoff homer to Charlotte’s Aaron McKiethan in the seventh. Williams allowed seven hits and five runs (all earned) while walking one and striking out nine.
After Charlotte starting left-hander Trae Starnes walked Worrell and hit Hoover to start the Pirates’ half of the seventh, the 49ers brought in McGowan, a right-hander. The runners moved to second and third on a double steal.
Worrell came home on a grounder to first by Seth Caddell. Pinch hitter Joey Berini singled to score Hoover, cutting Charlotte’s lead to 5-4. Berini’s pinch runner, Ryley Johnson, was called out on a steal attempt that went to video review.
Worrell, who was not in the original starting lineup Saturday night, had to assure coach Cliff Godwin that he was physically able to play after a shoulder injury sustained in the AAC Tournament.
Worrell did not play the whole game in an 8-5 win over Norfolk State on Friday. Worrell did not appear limited as the ECU center fielder reached above the fence to take a home run away from Charlotte’s Austin Knight to start the fifth.
“I knew it was hit hard and the wind was pushing the ball (to right),” Worrell said. “I heard Hoover saying, ‘Jump.'”
Worrell made the grab and the Pirates continued to rise to the occasion, moving to 4-0 for the season against the 49ers.
“One of the greatest catches I’ve ever seen,” said Godwin, who credited the crowd’s energy and support as a key to the outcome.