CLEARWATER, FL — Houston’s John King and Joey Pulido combined for a shutout as the No. 17 Cougars stopped East Carolina’s surge in the American Athletic Conference Tournament with a 6-0 win in the championship game at Spectrum Field on Sunday.
Houston (40-19) scored one run in each of the third through eighth innings. Third baseman Jake Scheiner was 4-for-5 with a double and a home run. Scheiner was named the event’s Most Outstanding Player.
ECU started Evan Kruczynski (4-3) on the mound. The senior left-hander went four innings, allowing seven hits and two runs, both earned. He struck out five without a walk.
Pirates coach Cliff Godwin cited Kruczynski’s pitch count (80) and less than customary rest in going to right-hander West Covington in the fifth.
Kruczynski threw 102 pitches and got the decision as eighth-seeded ECU downed top-seeded Central Florida 14-3 on Tuesday night.
The Pirates followed up the first-round win by topping South Florida 6-5 on Thursday, scoring three runs in the bottom of the ninth.
ECU reached the final with a 4-0 semifinal win over UCF on Saturday.
The Pirates defeated Houston 9-1 for the AAC Tournament crown in 2015. The Cougars won the league tournament last year. Houston had just one senior on this year’s club.
ECU was picked to win the AAC in the preseason poll and was ranked as high as sixth nationally to start the season.
Injuries were a factor as the Pirates started 0-10 in the league. Godwin figured ECU needed to win the league tournament to make the NCAA Tournament field and adjusted his pitching accordingly, resting weekend starters Kruczynski and Trey Benton in the final regular-season series at Connecticut.
Eric Tyler was 2-for-4 Sunday to lead ECU (32-28) at the plate. Luke Bolka, Spencer Brickhouse, Turner Brown, Dwanya Williams-Sutton, Wes Phillips and Dusty Baker had hits for the Pirates.
Covington, Chris Holba, Sam Lanier and Matt Bridges each yielded lone runs in brief relief stints for ECU. The Cougars registered an unearned run on Lanier.
Davis Kirkpatrick pitched a scoreless ninth for the Pirates.
King (7-1) went six and two-thirds innings and scattered seven hits. The lefty had one walk and one strikeout. Pulido recorded his second save.
ECU loaded the bases in the seventh with a double by Bolka, a walk and a hit batter. Pulido came in to get an inning-ending pop up.
Jared Triolo was 3-for-4 and scored three runs for Houston. Lael Lockhart had a hit and two RBIs. Connor Hollis and Corey Julks each went 2-for-5 with an RBI.