East Carolina baseball blanked by FIU, out of NCAA tournament

The East Carolina Pirates’ impressive season, which included 40 wins and an American Athletic Conference postseason championship, ended meekly this weekend with no runs in 17 of the 18 innings they played.

East Carolina scored a total of three runs in two games.

The capper came on Saturday afternoon, when the 23rd-ranked Pirates were blanked 2-0 by FIU in the Coral Gables Regional at Mark Light Field.

“I think we were out of gas,” said ECU Coach Cliff Godwin, whose Pirates (40-22) went 0-2, becoming the first school eliminated from the four-team, double-elimination tournament.

“We were late on a lot of (swings). We tried to cheat to get to some fastballs and got some off-speed (pitches).”

The game was played in 90-plus-degree heat, but ECU shortstop Hunter Allen said that was not the biggest factor.

“We played last week in the heat,” he said. “I think (the problem) was the amount of games we played this year. We’re not used to playing this many games.”

That did not stop FIU. Counting its 6-2 loss to Miami on Friday, FIU (30-30) has not allowed a run in 16 consecutive innings. Counting a three-game sweep last season, FIU is 4-0 over ECU all-time.

East Carolina starter Reid Love (7-4), who had pitched seven scoreless innings, got in trouble in the eighth when he allowed consecutive one-out singles to Edwin Rios and Brian Portelli.

Reliever Joe Ingle entered the game, but he threw a 1-1 fastball that was up in the zone, and Josh Anderson stroked the game-winning hit to left on a line.

“I was trying to get a ground ball,” Ingle said. “But I left a couple of pitches up.”

Ingle got the next batter on a fly out to center, but Portelli was able to advance to third on the play. The next batter, Austin Rodriguez, hit a two-out, run-scoring single for the final margin.

The Pirates tried to produce one final rally, getting a one-out double to left by Luke Lowery, which was ECU’s only extra-base hit of the weekend.

Godwin then sent up pinch-hitter Luke Bolka, who lined out hard to left, where FIU’s Jack Schaaf made a sliding catch.

“Bolka smoked that ball,” Godwin said, “If he is half an inch underneath that baseball, we’re still playing.”

The next batter, Bryce Harman, took a 1-2 curve for strike three, with the umpire delaying a couple of seconds before making the call on the close pitch.

And, just like that, the Pirates’ season was over.

Still, the Pirates, who had won eight straight games before arriving in Coral Gables, have much to be proud of, Godwin said.

“This is the best team I’ve ever been a part of,” said Godwin, who loses just two senior starters, Love and Allen. “They are not the most talented. But when they are 40 years old, they’re going to have a championship trophy sitting in the East Carolina locker room.”