You can’t always get what you want. That’s a lesson that Campbell had to learn the hard way on Monday as they fell to East Carolina twice — 10-3 in the first game, forcing a winner-take-all game in which the Pirates won 12-3 to advance to the Super Regional.
It’s certainly not the ending the Camels had envisioned. Riding an eight-game winning streak heading into Monday, the Humps hadn’t lost since May 14, coincidentally coming in the regular season against the Pirates. But Campbell has plenty to hang its hat on after an historical season. The Camels swept the Big South regular season and tournament titles for the second year in a row, and won two NCAA Tournament games for the first time in program history.
“They’re the standard-bearers,” said Campbell coach Justin Haire. “They took on the challenge of [following] a championship club last year and wanted to leave it better than how they found it. That’s a challenge every year, to keep raising the bar, and they did that this year. They’re the standard-bearers. They’ve built on the strong foundation of the classes before them and they’ll be the ones that everything gets compared to from here on out until we take that next step.”
Campbell had five players make the Greenville Regional All-Tournament Team: first baseman Koby Collins, shortstop Luis Gimenez, outfielder Matthew Barefoot, designated hitter Spencer Packard and pitcher Michael Horrell. Each of them had some big moments throughout the regional. It just wasn’t quite enough.
The Camels advanced to the final after a pair of one-run wins over Quinnipiac and N.C. State. ECU lost its opening game to Quinnipiac, but bounced back with four-straight wins in a span of about 35 hours.
“Anybody that can come through the losers’ bracket in any kind of double-elimination tournament — four-team, eight-team, it doesn’t matter — deserves to move on,” Haire said of the Pirates.
It was an impressive run for ECU. After the opening loss, they outscored their opponents 44-11 in the final four games, the clincher coming in front of a packed crowd of 5,206. Prior to the run, Pirates coach Cliff Godwin emphasized the importance of approaching it like a marathon. One reporter asked him after the games if he felt like he had just completed a 26.2-mile journey.
“I feel like I went 26 rounds with Mike Tyson,” Godwin joked in response. “And I didn’t even play.”
ECU started strong in the final game and never looked back, scoring five runs in the first three frames to go up 5-0.
Campbell wasn’t quite ready to go away though. The Camels scratched one out in the fourth after Packard drove in Gimenez with an RBI single. ECU scored again in the bottom half, but Campbell scored two more when Packard smacked a two-out, two-run double to right-center for his third hit of the game and sixth of the day. That made it a 6-3 ballgame and put the Camels in striking distance, but they couldn’t quite string together the hits they needed to score again.
ECU scored one in the seventh and then rallied for five in the eighth to put the game out of reach at 12-3.
ECU catcher Jake Washer was named Most Outstanding Player of the regional. He finished with seven hits, nine RBIs and four home runs. Bryant Packard, Alec Burleson and Jake Agnos also made the All-Tournament Team for the Pirates, who will now try to earn a berth to the College World Series for the first time in program history. They’ll travel to face No. 7 Louisville for a best-of-three series in the Super Regional.
While ECU is still trying to make history, Campbell’s seniors can take solace in the fact that they’ve already done that with all that they’ve accomplished.
“First time in school history doing all kinds of different stuff that’s never been done before,” Haire said. “They’ve pushed the limits and pushed our program higher. I’ll forever be in debt to those guys and our program will be as well. It’s a true brotherhood down there.”