May 31, 2009

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Pirates Use Brandt, Brawl to Force Final Game

By Phil Stanton Co-Founder

GREENVILLE, N.C. – Winner takes all on Monday.


Freshman lefty Kevin Brandt went 8.1 innings and top-seeded East Carolina used three home runs, including a grand slam by Brandon Henderson, to defeat second-seed South Carolina and force a decisive final game for the Greenville Regional.


The teams will meet on Monday at 6 p.m. for a spot in the Super Regionals against North Carolina, the winner of the Chapel Hill Regional and the No. 4 national seed.


“I’m proud of our players and the effort they gave us,” ECU head coach Billy Godwin said. “It was a long day. We’ve got to do everything we can tomorrow.”


The Pirates (45-18) defeated Binghamton 16-9 earlier in the day for the right to face the Gamecocks (40-22) for the regional crown.


Brandt (9-1) allowed nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts. He held the Gamecocks scoreless for six innings. Seth Simmons got the final two outs to preserve the victory.


“I really felt like the key to the game was a great start by Kevin Brandt,” USC head coach Ray Tanner said. “He pitched a heck of a game.”


Brandt made his 27th appearance and his fifth start. He matched his season-long outing from his last start against then-No. 1 UNC on April 22, when he tossed 8.1 scoreless innings with five hits, one walk and 10 strikeouts in a 4-0 victory in Greenville.


“He pounded the zone,” USC centerfielder Whit Merrifield said. “He located his change-up early and he pitched backwards. He threw change-ups in fastball counts and kept us off balance. When you throw strikes, you’re going to be successful a lot of times.”


Henderson’s slam in the seventh gave the Pirates (45-18) an 8-0 lead.


Kyle Roller hit his third homer of the day in the top of the first for ECU, a three-run blast that gave the Pirates the early lead. Dustin Harrington hit a leadoff homer in the fourth to extend the lead to 4-0.


“I started to see the ball well,” Roller said. “I’ve been working in the cage a lot lately, working on my timing, and I think that was a big key today, to keep my foot down and react to pitches.”


Andrew Crisp had a two-run double in the seventh to put the Gamecocks (40-22) on the board. USC made it very interesting in the ninth as Justin Dalles belted a two-run homer with one out to end the night for Brandt. Brady Thomas had a two-run double to pull the Gamecocks to within two and bring the winning run to the plate. Simmons got a foul out to first and a fly ball to center to end the contest.


Roller and Ryan Wood finished with two hits and two runs for ECU. Jared Avchen also had two hits for the Pirates.


Dalles had three hits and two runs for USC, while Jackie Bradley, Jr., added two hits and two runs for the Gamecocks.


“We had a mulligan and now we used it,” Tanner said. “We have to come out and play very, very good tomorrow.”