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Spartans NCAA Baseball Tournament debut is a loss to East Carolina

The Pirates beat Norfolk State 4-3 in the Spartans first ever NCAA Tournament game
Credit: Norfolk State Athletics

GREENVILLE, N.C. —  Making their first-ever NCAA Division I postseason appearance, the Norfolk State baseball team put a scare into regional host and No. 13 national seed East Carolina on Friday. But a four-run sixth inning helped the Pirates pull ahead, and they held off a late Spartan rally for an 8-5 win in the first game of the Greenville Regional at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

NSU (25-27), with 14 come-from-behind wins to its credit already this year, made a strong bid to make it 15, scoring once and loading the bases in the top of the ninth. But ECU (42-15) reliever Matt Bridges got Danny Hosley to pop out to end the game.

The Spartans will play an elimination game at 1 p.m. Saturday against the loser of Friday night’s Charlotte-Maryland game.

NSU came out swinging. Dionte Brown laid down a bunt single to start the game and Alsander Womack followed by rifling a single to center field. Hosley’s fielder’s choice grounder scored Brown for NSU’s first-ever postseason run.

The Pirates answered with a pair of runs on two two-out Spartan errors to take the lead in the bottom of the first inning.

The Spartans plated a pair of runs in the fourth to retake the lead. After consecutive singles by Ty Hanchey and Mason Velasquez to start the inning, Jacob Council followed with one of his own to tie the game. Velasquez then scored the go-ahead run when Council got hung up between first and second in a rundown on a stolen base attempt, pushing NSU in front, 3-2.

ECU’s Josh Moylan doubled in a run with two outs in the fifth to tie the game, but the Spartans’ aggressiveness on the bases resulted in another run in the sixth. Hanchey walked and took third on a single by Velasquez. With two outs, Hanchey broke from third when pitcher A.J. Wilson started his windup. Wilson never came set and was called for a balk, scoring Hanchey to give the Spartans a 4-3 edge.

But the explosive Pirate offense broke through in a big way in the bottom of the sixth. Spartan starter James Deloatch, who allowed just three hits through five, walked a pair of hitters. Then with two outs, Thomas Francisco hit a three-run homer to right field to put the Pirates in front. Zach Agnos followed with a triple and scored on a passed ball to cap a four-run inning.

The Pirates scored another unearned run in the bottom of the eighth, but NSU wouldn’t back down. Council walked to start the ninth against Pirate closer C.J. Mayhue. After Mayhue retired the next two hitters, pinch hitter Minjae Hong reached on an infield single. Brown then walked to load the bases before Womack singled in Council to make it 8-5.

ECU then brought in Bridges with the bases still loaded and Hosley just got under a 1-0 pitch, flying out to left.

Deloatch (7-3) took the loss for NSU. He allowed just four hits in 5.2 innings of work, yielding six runs (four earned) with six walks and three strikeouts. Nolan Manzer allowed just one hit and two unearned runs with three strikeouts in 2.1 innings of work.

“I’m very proud of how hard we fought today,” NSU head coach Keith Shumate said. “We hit the ball well and did a good job of executing our game plan from a pitching perspective. We just had a couple too many miscues and ECU made us pay for one mistake pitch in the sixth, and that’s what good teams do. But we’ll be ready to battle back tomorrow and focus on winning each pitch.”

Womack, Hanchey, Velasquez and Council all had two hits for the Spartans. Hanchey scored twice.

Wilson (1-0) was credited with the win, working two-thirds of an inning with two strikeouts. Moylan had two hits for the Pirates, who face the winner of the Charlotte-Maryland game Saturday night.