ECU’s Godwin: ‘I am going to go down with these guys every single day’
Turns out N.C. State and East Carolina will meet in the Greenville Regional, just not on the side of the bracket anyone expected.
Quinnipiac stunned the top-seeded Pirates on Saturday night with a 5-4 win at Clark-LeClair Stadium.
Liam Scafariello’s monster home run in the seventh inning turned out to be the difference for the Bobcats, who entered the NCAA tournament with one of the worst records (29-27) and RPI rankings (No. 177) in the 64-team field. But everybody starts over in the postseason and the topsy-turvy Greenville Regional proves that old adage.
“They just played a little bit better than we did,” ECU coach Cliff Godwin said. “I thought the crowd was amazing and I thought Quinnipiac performed really well in front of a hostile environment.”
ECU (43-16) and N.C. State (42-18), the top two teams in the regional, both lost their opening game. Instead of meeting in the winners’ bracket, they’ll meet in an elimination game at noon on Sunday.
“I think this team is really good under pressure,” said ECU outfielder Bryant Packard, who finished 3 for 5. “I believe in this team fully. This team doesn’t fold.”
Quinnipiac, a small private school in Hamden, Conn., will face Campbell, a small private school in Buies Creek, in the winners’ bracket with a scheduled start time at 4 p.m. The second elimination game is scheduled to start at 8 p.m.
Nothing has gone according to schedule, or seed, in Greenville. N.C. State and Campbell needed more than 24 hours to finish the opening game of the double-elimination regional, a 5-4 win for the Camels (36-19).
The Pirates and Bobcats were rained out Friday night and then delayed for two hours before the start of Saturday’s game.
When the teams finally took the field, Quinnipiac came out swinging. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champions scored a pair of runs in the first inning, highlighted by Evan Vulgamore’s home run.
The Pirates answered right back in the bottom of the first with a pair of runs. Packard singled and scored. Then Quinnipiac pitcher Chris Enns made the poor choice to pick off a runner on first base, which allowed Turner Brown to score from third without even a play at the plate.
The Bobcats made it 3-2 in the second inning with a pair of doubles. ECU tied it up in the fourth with an RBI single by Thomas Francisco.
The teams took turns throwing the go-ahead run out at the plate in the sixth inning. ECU rightfielder Alec Burleson threw out Vulgamore in the top of the inning and then Scafariello pegged ECU’s Jake Washer at the plate in the bottom of the inning.
Scafariello then got all of his 6-4, 265-pound frame into a 3-0 pitch from ECU reliever Evan Voliva and sent a moon shot over the trees in “The Jungle” in leftfield and into the second row of the parking lot for a 5-3 lead.
This is ECU’s fifth time as a regional host since 2001 but first loss to a No. 4 seed in the opening game. The Pirates have advanced to the Super Regional round four times but never after losing the first game of the regional.
This NCAA tournament trip has started better for the Bobcats than their last one in 2005. They lost 20-2 to Texas and 35-8 to Miami (Ohio) in their only other tournament appearance.
After reliever Colin Donnelly got Burleson to bounce to second base for the final out, the Bobcats players streaked from all positions and the bench to the mound and celebrated, almost as if they had won the regional.
“It was amazing,” Donnelly said. “It’s something we’re never forget. We thought that winning the MAAC championship was something special. We’re definitely not done yet.”