GREENVILLE, N.C.–It looked like East Carolina was going to run itself out of Thursday’s prime-time Conference USA tournament game against Southern Mississippi. In the end, the Pirate baserunning was indeed the difference. ECU leadoff man Harrison Eldridge stole home to break a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the 10th inning and propel the Pirates to a huge victory over a fellow contender for a regional No. 2 seed.
The Pirates had a golden opportunity slip through their fingers in the eighth inning, when they had two runners erased in rundowns near third base on the same play. Southern Miss carried a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth, when the Pirates pushed across the tying run but left the bases loaded. ECU loaded the bases again in the 10th, but this time the result was different. Pirates coach Billy Godwin called for a suicide squeeze, and as the fleet-footed Eldrige broke for home and the batter squared to bunt, Golden Eagles reliever Tyler Conn unleashed a pitch in the dirt, allowing Eldrige to score easily. He was credited with a stolen base.
“With the runner going, maybe that rattled (Conn),” Godwin said. “I don’t know what happened, but I don’t care. We won.”
Earlier today, I wrote that Rice was in the catbird seat after winning its first two CUSA tourney games, but ECU can say the same. And Godwin did.
“We’re in the catbird seat, and that’s what you want,” he said. “But we didn’t come here to win two games. We’ve still got work to do.”