ECU Vanquishes Wake Forest In Wild NCAA Greenville Regional Walkoff Victory

ECU Vanquishes Wake Forest In Wild NCAA Greenville Regional Walkoff Victory

GREENVILLE, N.C. – Staring down a two-run deficit entering the bottom of the ninth and facing elimination from the NCAA Greenville Regional Saturday afternoon, top seed East Carolina never stopped believing and posted a three spot that culminated in a Luke Nowak walkoff single as the Pirates turned aside No. 2 seed Wake Forest 7-6 inside Lewis Field at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

East Carolina stays alive in the tournament and will take on the loser of the winner’s bracket game between No. 3 seed VCU and No. 4 seed Evansville Sunday at Noon.

The Demon Deacons (38-22) seemed to seize control in the top of the ninth with five runs that turned a 4-1 deficit into a 6-4 advantage, but ECU (44-16) was not about to let a legendary Trey Yesavage performance go unrewarded.

After missing the American Athletic Conference tournament due to injury, the future Major League Baseball first round draft pick dazzled with an epic 7.1-inning performance during which he limited the preseason national No. 1-ranked Demon Deacons to one run and a lone hit with six strikeouts.

Charlie Hodges (1-0) collected his first career victory on the mound, registering the final out of the top of the ninth frame. Michael Massey was tagged with the loss as he surrendered three runs on four hits without recording an out.

Greenville native Dixon Williams put on a show in front of the 5,700 hometown faithful, notching three hits, two runs scored and four RBI which included a three-run tank off the top of the scoreboard that effectively ended the day of Wake Forest ace Chase Burns who posted season lows in innings pitched (5.0) and strikeouts (seven).

Both starters retired the respective sides in order in the first before the Pirates put up the first offensive threat of the contest in the bottom of the second. Jacob Starling was hit by a pitch with one away and proceeded to swipe second base. Ryan McCrystal followed with a walk and Nowak moved him to third on a fielder’s choice play but Burns recovered, mustering up a strikeout to terminate the inning.

A pair of walks and a wild pitch in the top of the third allowed Nick Kurtz to provide the initial run of the afternoon as he drove an 0-1 offering into right center for an RBI single that plated Cameron Gill from third. However, East Carolina finally started squaring Burns up in the bottom of the fifth. Joey Berini worked a full count leadoff walk, advanced to second on a wild pitch and took third via a groundout. Down 0-2, McCrystal drove one down the left field line that dropped in fair to score Berini and knot things up at one.

The inning continued as Jacob Jenkins-Cowart reached on a Burns free pass. Williams then connected on a 2-1 slider and drilled it nearly over the scoreboard – a 427-foot bomb that afforded the Pirates a 4-1 cushion.

As it turned out, neither side dented the scoreboard in the next three frames – setting up the ninth-inning dramatics. The Demon Deacons put their first two runners on thanks to a Jake Reinisch hit by pitch and Seaver King single. Nowak then made a diving catch in left to account for the first out, but two singles, an error, a walk, a fielder’s choice and another single resulted in five Wake Forest runs. Hodges eventually induced a fly ball to left for the final out of the half inning.

In what has become the recurring theme of the 2024 campaign, the Purple and Gold refused to go quietly. Ryley Johnson ripped a leadoff single through the middle and McCrystal deposited a 1-2 offering into right center to push Johnson to third. Jenkins-Cowart then wasted little time in lacing a first-pitch single up the middle that plated Johnson to make it a one-run game. Williams followed with another base knock, this one through the left side, to score pinch runner Nathan Chrismon and knot the score back up at six. ECU wasn’t finished as Starling was hit by an 0-1 pitch to load the bases. Wake Forest staved off elimination by recording a force out at home, but Nowak worked a 1-1 count and split the right side of the infield for the winning RBI tally.

Postgame Notes Graphic
East Carolina improved to 13-7 against Wake Forest in the all-time series and 1-1 in NCAA Tournament play.
The walkoff victory was the fourth of the season for the Pirates, previously winning in such fashion over then No. 15 North Carolina, Cal State Fullerton and Wichita State.
ECU scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth to win a game for the second time this season. The other was the epic Williams steal of home plate in the AAC Tournament semifinal victory over Wichita State back on May 25 in Clearwater, Fla.
The Pirates put seven of their nine leadoff batters on base and were 3-for-4 (.750) with a runner on third and less than two outs.
East Carolina improved to 27-5 inside the friendly confines of Clark-LeClair Stadium this campaign.