TAMPA — Trailing 5-2 after seven innings, No. 15 East Carolina used a 4-run eighth inning for a 6-5 American Athletic Conference series win at South Florida on Friday night.
The Pirates improved to 40-15 overall and 17-6 in the AAC to maintain a half-game lead over Houston (32-21, 16-6) for first place in the league standings. The Cougars outlasted Cincinnati 8-7 in 10 innings on Friday.
Justin Wilcoxen walked to start the pivotal frame for ECU and Ryley Johnson reached on a throwing error. Luke Nowak singled to load the bases. Alec Makarewics was hit by a pitch to force in a run and pull the Pirates within 5-3.
Jacob Starling followed with a score-tying 2-run single to left center,
Makarewicz came in with what proved to be the winning run on a ground out by Nathan Chrismon.
The Bulls got the potential tying run to second base in the bottom of the ninth before Wyatt Lunsford-Shenkman recorded a pair of fly outs. Jake Hunter came in for a game-ending strikeout and his first save.
Landon Ginn (4-0) got the win. Carter Spivey tossed three and two-thirds innings and had six of ECU’s 10 whiffs.
ECU’s two runs in the seventh came on a double by Makarewicz and a ground out by Starling.
USF (19-36, 7-16) had a 13-9 lead in hits but stranded 12 runners.
Starling went 3-for-4 with three RBIs. Makarewicz was 2-for-3 with two RBIs.
The teams close the series with a game on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. The Pirates are in position to sweep the Bulls and clinch the AAC regular season title.