Zach Houchins had four hits and Ryan Williams worked the final 4.2 innings out of the bullpen as East Carolina hung on for a 3-2 win over visiting North Carolina Tuesday evening at Clark-LeClair Stadium. Landon Lassiter homered for the Tar Heels, who dropped to 23-18 on the year and will host No. 30 Liberty Wednesday at 6 in Chapel Hill.
For the sixth game in a row, Carolina fell behind early and had to try to come from behind. Tuesday it was a wild pitch from UNC starter Taylore Cherry (0-1) that scored the opening run in the third. After ECU’s Drew Reynolds led off the inning with a single, Houchins doubled him to third with nobody out. Cherry got the first out of the frame with a bare-handed grab of an Ian Townsend grounder, but send his first pitch to Luke Lowery to the backstop to score Reynolds. But the sophomore right-hander got Lowery and Bryce Harman on strikes to escape further damage.
Carolina almost equalized immediately as Korey Dunbar sent a deep fly to right to open the fourth against starter Reid Love, but Townsend leapt above the wall to rob the home run and keep it 1-0 Pirates.
The Tar Heels did tie it up in the fifth via the longball, as Lassiter drove his first home run of the year out to left with one out. After a Skye Bolt bunt single and a Dunbar walk, ECU called on Williams with two on and Carolina poised to take its first lead of the night. But Williams got Parks Jordan to ground to first and proceeded to retire the next 10 batters in order.
With Williams dominating on the mound, the Pirates scratched out an insurance run in the eighth thanks to some good fortune. Harman led off the frame against Trevor Kelley with an infield single and, after failing to get a bunt down, Charlie Yorgen reached when his ball off the end of the bat stayed fair for another infield hit. After a Garrett Brooks sacrifice, Hunter Allen’s bloop single to center scored pinch-runner Ben Fultz to make it 3-1. Carolina avoided further damage when Alex Raburn tracked down Bolt’s errant throw to third and retired Yorgen trying to score from second.
But the insurance run would prove vital when the Tar Heels finally got to Williams in the ninth. Zach Daly reached on a one-out error before Michael Russell extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a single back up the box. Wood Myers then drove in Daly with a hit to put the tying run in scoring position with just one out. But Williams got Joe Dudek to fly to center and then struck out Bolt to end it, giving the Pirates their first win over UNC in exactly five years.
Williams allowed just two hits and an unearned run over 4.1 innings for his 10th win of the season. Kelley put together another in a string of solid outings, going 3.0 innings with just three hits and a single run.
Carolina will return to Boshamer Stadium Wednesday to face No. 30 Liberty at 6 p.m. The Flames have been one of the best stories of 2014 and entered the week with a 31-9 record and an RPI of 20.