GREENVILLE, N.C. — The party was on in Greenville.
East Carolina right fielder Jacob Jenkins-Cowart launched a three-run home run off the scoreboard in the fifth inning, giving the Pirates a 6-2 lead. The record crowd of 5,807 in Clark-LeClair Stadium went bonkers, the press box was shaking and it was hard to fight the feeling that ECU was on the fast track to Omaha.
Another run in the top of the seventh on a wild pitch put the Pirates up 7-2, putting them nine outs away from clinching it.
But at that moment, it was worth remembering a quote from ECU shortstop Zach Agnos after Friday’s Pirates win, in which the team also built a 7-2 advantage before having to pull away late when Texas made a comeback.
“At 7-2, I didn’t even feel comfortable. I felt like it was a one-run game with their offense. No lead is safe with them,” Agnos said at the time.
Saturday’s game followed a similar path, but this time, Texas finished the job with a 9-8 win, forcing a winner-take-all game for a trip to the College World Series Sunday afternoon.
The comeback started in earnest in the bottom of the seventh. After two quick, routine outs, shortstop Trey Faltine doubled and center fielder Douglas Hodo III lined a home run to right field. That cut the 7-2 deficit to 7-4.
It continued into the bottom of the eighth, and this time it started right away. Second baseman Murphy Stehly singled, Austin Todd singled and third baseman Skyler Messinger lifted a three-run home run to right field to tie it 7-7.
“That just goes to say who we are as a team,” Campbell said. “No matter what the score is or how late in the game it is, we just know that we’re never out of it. We just keep fighting until the end.”