CLEARWATER, FL — East Carolina got an effective start from Evan Kruczynski and gave him plenty of run support in a 14-3 win over top-seeded Central Florida in the first round of the American Athletic Conference Tournament on Tuesday night at Spectrum Field.
The eighth-seeded Pirates (30-27) meet fourth-seeded South Florida (41-15) at 7 p.m. Thursday.
“Proud of Kruz,” said ECU coach Cliff Godwin. “I didn’t think he had his best stuff. They were tough on him. They fouled off a lot of pitches.”
The senior left-hander rested during a series at Connecticut that concluded Saturday. He allowed eight hits against the Knights (38-19) with two runs, one earned, in six innings. Kruczynski (4-2) struck out three without a walk. Tyler Smith pitched the seventh and eighth for ECU with three whiffs in the seventh. Davis Kirkpatrick checked the Knights in the ninth with a pair of strikeouts.
A three-run homer to right by Charlie Yorgen gave the Pirates a 3-2 lead in the top of the third inning. Drew Henrickson was hit by a pitch with one out and Brady Lloyd walked with two away before Yorgen connected with a full-count pitch from UCF starter Trent Thompson (0-2).
“Charlie hit a change-up,” Godwin said. “We had a lot of guys hitting tonight.”
Luke Hamblin and Kyle Marsh had doubles for the Knights as UCF took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first.
Singles by Matthew Mika, Ryan Crile, Anthony George and an error on the Pirates allowed the Knights to extend their lead to 2-0 in the second.
“We knew we needed to keep scoring runs,” Godwin said.
Travis Watkins walked with one out to start a three-run fifth for ECU. Spencer Brickhouse followed with a single to right field. Turner Brown had a two-run double and scored on a throwing error as the ball went out of play as Brown slid into third.
Dusty Baker was hit by a pitch and Yorgen singled before Watkins delivered a two-run double for a 9-2 Pirates lead in the sixth.
ECU manufactured a run in the seventh after Brown walked and Dwanya Williams-Sutton had a single to left. Henrickson had a sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third. Brown came home on a ground out by Baker.
The Knights picked up a run in the eighth to pull within 10-3 as Marsh doubled and scored on a single by Rylan Thomas.
Eric Tyler singled to open a four-run ninth for the Pirates. Brown drew a walk before Tyler scored on a hit by Williams-Sutton. Henrickson and Lloyd had RBI singles.
ECU’s last run came as pinch hitter Nick Barber hit into a fielder’s choice that allowed Henrickson to score.
Watkins and Williams-Sutton each went 3-for-5 as the Pirates outhit UCF, 15-11. Yorgen and Brickhouse each had two hits.