June 1, 2009
GREENVILLE, North Carolina With his team trailing 9-6 in the bottom of the ninth, Devin Harris hit a three-run home run to tie the contest before also delivering the game-winning single in the bottom of the 10th, lifting top-seeded East Carolina to a 10-9 victory over No. 2 seed South Carolina in the Greenville Regional Championship Game Monday evening. A crowd of 5,047 witnessed the contest at Lewis Field inside Clark-LeClair Stadium, representing the fourth-largest single-game attendance in facility and program history.
With the come-from-behind win, the Pirates advance to their first super regional since 2004 when they faced the Gamecocks in Columbia, S.C. Next weekend, East Carolina will travel to Chapel Hill to face No. 4 national seed North Carolina at Boshamer Stadium in a best-of-three series to determine one of eight squads in the 2009 College World Series.
Trent Whitehead was named Most Outstanding Player of the Greenville Regional while Justin Dalles joined him as a unanimous selection to the All-Regional Team. Additionally, Brandon Henderson earned the accolade for the second-straight season as he also earned the nod at the 2008 Conway Regional.
Whit Merrifield picked up four hits in six at bats for the Gamecocks while Jackie Bradley Jr. and Scott Wingo added home runs. Curtis Johnson suffered the loss, allowing three earned runs on three hits in one and two-thirds innings pitched. South Carolina also ended up out-hitting the Pirates 16-14 in the contest.
With his late heroics, Harris ended the day 4-for-5 with a career-high tying five RBI and two runs scored while Kyle Roller, Dustin Harrington and Jared Avchen also turned in multi-hit efforts. Freshman Mike Wright (1-2) earned his first collegiate win on the mound, hurling the last inning and a third and allowing no runs or hits while walking one. The tilt also marked East Carolina's first extra-inning affair of the year.
After a scoreless first inning, the Gamecocks edged ahead when with two out in the top of the second, Whit Merrifield extended his hitting streak to 14 games with an RBI single that scored Bobby Haney.
South Carolina stretched its advantage to 3-0 in the top of the third as Parker Bangs produced a one-out double that scored Nick Ebert while Andrew Crisp drove in Dalles with a sacrifice fly. Bobby Haney then tacked on another run with a two-out single before Scott Wingo hit a two-run home run to right field that made the score 6-0.
The Pirates put up their first threat of the contest in the bottom of the third, receiving consecutive singles from Drew Schieber and Jared Avchen with no outs, but Brown retired the next three batters in order to end the inning. Then, with the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth and one away, Schieber grounded into a 1-2-3 double play, closing the frame.
East Carolina broke onto the scoreboard in the bottom of the fifth. Leadoff batter Whitehead worked a one-out walk before Ryan Wood hit a towering shot to left field for his 14th long ball of the season, cutting the Gamecock advantage to 6-2. However, South Carolina pulled one of the runs back, getting a bases-loaded single from Dalles that made the score 7-2 after five and a half.
Avchen and Whitehead sliced the Gamecock lead to 7-4 in the bottom of the sixth, providing a RBI double and sac fly, respectively. The Pirates continued to chip away at their deficit, scoring two more runs in the bottom of the seventh on two-straight singles with one out.
South Carolina re-established some breathing room in the top of the eighth, getting a two-run home run to right field from Jackie Bradley Jr. that pushed the score to 9-6. Threatening to add to their lead, the Gamecocks loaded the bases with two outs, but Wright struck out Ebert to hold South Carolina scoreless.
After Henderson and Harrington drew walks to begin the bottom of the ninth, Harris took a 0-1 pitch and drilled it over the left field fence to tie the game at nine. Pinch hitter Austin Homan then produced a two-out single, but Whitehead flew out to center to send the contest into extra innings.
An error by Schieber allowed Dalles to reach first to lead off the top of the 10th. Brady Thomas proceeded to lay down a sac bunt that advanced Dalles to second. However, Wright eliminated the last two batters with a popup and ground ball out.
With one away in the bottom of the frame, Roller doubled to the wall in center before Harrington flied out to right. After the Gamecocks brought in reliever Sam Dyson, Harris sat on a 3-1 count and knocked a single to center that was just deep enough to score Roller and give East Carolina the win.
The NCAA Chapel Hill Super Regional will be played Saturday, June 6 at noon on ESPNU, Sunday, June 7 at noon on ESPN and Monday, June 8 on ESPN at either 1 p.m. or 7 p.m. (EDT).
2009 NCAA GREENVILLE REGIONAL ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
Catcher: Justin Dalles (South Carolina)
Infielder: Bobby Haney (South Carolina)
Infielder: Brandon Henderson (East Carolina)
Infielder: Ryan Wood (East Carolina)
Infielder: Dave Ciocchi (Binghamton)
Outfielder: Jackie Bradley, Jr. (South Carolina)
Outfielder: Trent Whitehead (East Carolina)
Outfielder: Corey Taylor (Binghamton)
Pitcher: Blake Cooper (South Carolina)
Pitcher: Kevin Brandt (East Carolina
Utility/DH: Kyle Roller (East Carolina)
Most Outstanding Player: Trent Whitehead (East Carolina)
Bold indicated unanimous selection.