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Greenville Regional notebook: Tappen dazzles crowd with pair of highlight-reel catches

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GREENVILLE, N.C. – His hustling, diving grabs earned him applause from a crowd of mix fan bases at Clark-LeClair Stadium on Friday night.

Virginia left fielder Alex Tappen’s forward-lunging acrobatics ended the visiting fifth and eighth innings in the Cavaliers’ 7-2 win over Coastal Carolina in their regional opener. And when Tappen left his feet, he brought the Hoos’ fans and even those loyal to host and top-seed East Carolina to theirs.

“I took two really good routes on them,” Tappen said, “and I put myself in a position where I was able to feel confident when I was laying out for them.”

Applause, though, wasn’t the only noise Tappen heard from the mostly loyal Pirates’ faithful on Friday evening. He was within earshot of The Jungle — the group of ECU fans that pack the grassy area beyond the outfield fence.

UVa and ECU meet in Saturday night’s winner’s bracket game at 7 p.m., and Tappen is expecting to hear the rowdy bunch at a louder level.

“I was already getting a lot of it tonight,” Tappen said with a laugh, “so I’m sure tomorrow is going to be just as much.”

He said during the Cavaliers’ victory against the Chanticleers, he heard the same group of young fans over and over again.

“There were like four little kids out there who had the big megaphone,” he said, “and they were just in the back of me and making it tough. They were funny, these four little kids who were just hilarious.”

Tappen said he anticipates a great atmosphere when the second-seeded Hoos clash with the Pirates.

“They have a great fan base,” he said, “and even in our game [against Coastal Carolina], they had a ton of fans lining the outfield in those chairs and those seats, so it’s going to be exciting and that’s what June baseball is all about.”

Saucke’s strong postseason debut

Tappen wasn’t the only member of the Cavaliers to make a great play with his glove.

Freshman right fielder Casey Saucke reached over the fence in foul territory in the third inning to catch a pop up, and that snag was part of a stellar postseason debut in which Saucke was 2-for-4 with two RBI.

His run-scoring single in the third extended UVa’s lead to 4-2.

“To add that fourth run was huge,” Cavaliers coach Brian O’Connor said. “He made that nice play there on the wall, which was good to see, and he’s just getting better and better.

“He’s a physical kid and I’ll say this about it, you don’t see many players, especially in their freshman year, throughout the season that play every day actually get stronger. Like physically stronger. Most of the guys drop 10 pounds because they’ve never played this many games, but this guy has actually gotten stronger throughout the year.”

Saucke is hitting .363 on the season.

Worrell leads ECU to victory

An eight-run home third, highlighted by switch-hitting center fielder Bryson Worrell’s two home runs, propelled top-seeded East Carolina to a lopsided 17-1 victory over No. 4-seed Coppin State in the first game of the Greenville Regional on Friday.

Worrell led off the frame with a solo blast to left into The Jungle and the blast came with Worrell swinging right-handed.

But he wasn’t done.

The likely MLB Draft pick come July, Worrell, capped the inning with a three-run blast that he pulled hitting left-handed over the right-field wall to become the first ECU player to homer twice in the same inning since Ian Townsend did it in 2014.

“I’ve never seen somebody hit a home run from both sides in the same inning,” Pirates coach Cliff Godwin said. “Pretty special, and my hat goes off to Bryson, a guy that’s put it together in his fifth year.”

The win was ECU’s (43-18) 19th in a row.


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