GREENVILLE, N.C.—Kyle Roller homered twice in the fifth inning to spark East Carolina to a 16-9 win over Binghamton, staving off elimination for the Pirates and setting up a rematch with South Carolina tonight at 6 p.m. The Gamecocks battered the Pirates 12-2 last night.
Sunday afternoon’s game didn’t start off according to plan for the Pirates. Second baseman Ryan Wood’s throwing error on a potential double play ball opened the door for a four-run rally to put the Bearcats on top 4-2 in the third. The Pirates responded with a single run in the top of the fourth, but Binghamton answered immediately, getting a clutch two-out, bases-clearing double from first baseman Dave Ciocchi to build the lead to 7-3.
That’s when Roller took over. The junior DH led off the top of the fifth with a solo shot to right to bring the Pirates closer at 7-4, and ECU went on to score seven more runs in the inning to take the lead for good.
"I was just trying to put the ball in play with two strikes," Roller said. "He left a changeup up and out over the plate. I was out on my front foot a little bit, but I got the best of it and the wind helped me out a little bit."
Center fielder Trent Whitehead’s RBI single to right, his third hit of the game, brought home the tying run. Two batters later, senior left fielder Stephen Batts doubled to left-center to bring home another two runs and put the Pirates back on top.
Then it was Roller’s turn again. He slugged his second home run of the inning, a two-run shot high off the scoreboard in right-center, to increase the lead to 11-7. In all, the Pirates scored eight runs on eight hits in the inning and never looked back.
"When we went down 7-3, for us to put an eight-spot up showed tremendous character, perseverance and all those other good athletic terms we like to use," ECU coach Billy Godwin said. "At this time of the year, we just want to win, survive and move on."
On the mound, ECU got a gutsy effort from sophomore righthander Brad Mincey, who went the distance despite throwing more than 140 pitches. He yielded all nine runs (just two earned) on 11 hits, but once he got the lead, Mincey did what a pitcher with a big lead should do—throw strikes and let his defense go to work. Mincey finished the afternoon with five strikeouts and only one walk, improving to 10-5 on the year.
"We prepare our pitchers to go 100-120 pitches this late in the season, but his was probably closer to 140," Godwin said. "But he felt good and was still throwing strikes. I left the eighth inning up to him. He felt good and he wanted to go out there."
The host and No. 1 seed in the Greenville Regional, the Pirates still have to overcome their biggest obstacle in second-seeded South Carolina. As expected, this has been an offensive regional, as the winning team has scored in double digits in all five games so far. Godwin plans to give the ball to freshman lefty Kevin Brandt against the hot-hitting Gamecocks, while South Carolina will counter with a freshman lefty of their own, Nolan Belcher.
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