Baseball, like any other game played at a Division I level, has an extremely small margin of error. One swing can change everything — and a close game can instantly be blown open.
William and Mary experienced this phenomenon Wednesday night in Greenville, N.C. The Tribe was tied with host East Carolina 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning when the complexion of the game suddenly changed.
The Pirates reeled off eight runs in the bottom of the sixth, spurred by a sacrifice fly by ECU’s Ben Fultz, which scored Jay Cannon. ECU never looked back, downing the Tribe by a convincing 13-4 final.
With the loss, the College falls to 24-16 on the season while the Pirates advanced to 26-10-1 on the year.
Junior pitcher Matt Wainman (3-4) took the loss for the College. Wainman put in five largely flawless innings of work, but ultimately faltered in the sixth. ECU’s Andy Smithmyer earned the win by pitching six innings of relief, improving to 3-2 on the year.
The game began on a positive note for the College. The Tribe’s leadoff hitter, junior second baseman Kevin Nutter, began with a single. Junior centerfielder Ryan Brown followed with a single to the right side, allowing Nutter to move to second base. Sophomore third baseman Ryan Lindemuth grounded out, but Brown and Nutter advanced to second and third, respectively. Freshman first baseman Michael Katz grounded out, but Nutter was able to beat the throw and score the first run of the day. Shortly thereafter, Brown scored on a passed ball, giving the College a 2-0 advantage.
The Pirates then pulled starting pitcher Deshorn Lake, fearing that the game would get too far out of hand. Smithmyer entered the game for East Carolina, and quickly got freshman rightfielder Josh Smith to fly out. Smithmyer and the rest of the Pirates’ staff would ensure the Tribe would not score another run until the eighth inning.
The Pirates responded in the bottom of the first. Cannon flied out to center on a sacrifice fly, bringing in Jack Reinheimer and cutting the Tribe lead to 2-1. Reinheimer was the last run scored before both teams fell into a period of meager offensive production. Neither team would score again until the fifth inning, as both sides used capable pitching to retire batters with ease, halting any momentum.
ECU struck again first. The Pirates’s Corey Thompson singled, but advanced to second base, which allowed Sam King, who was previously on second base, to score. King’s score was aided by a pair of errors on the same play by the Tribe. With the score knotted at 2-2, the teams entered the sixth inning.
The College’s portion of the inning went quickly, as senior left fielder Tadd Bower recorded a hit, but was caught stealing second base. The Pirates, however, would not leave the sixth inning empty handed.
After Cannon scored on Fultz’s sac fly, Wainman struck out another Pirates player, giving ECU two outs. Despite being one out away from ending the inning, the Pirates would score seven more runs. King singled to left field, allowing ECU to score another. Wainman would exit in favor of senior Chris Yates, who surrendered six more runs before the inning ended.
After a scoreless Tribe seventh, East Carolina would add two more runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. The College would go on to score a run in both the eighth and ninth innings, leading to the eventual 13-4 final score.
Despite the disappointing sixth inning, the College was competitive and played well against the Pirates. The College hopes to shake off the loss quickly, as the squad returns to conference play in a three game set against Virginia Commonwealth in Richmond starting this Friday.