Sweeps are hard to come by in the American Athletic Conference in baseball.
That’s why last weekend’s Houston sweep of East Carolina was so stunning. Winning three games on the opponent’s home field is extremely difficult.
Fast forward a week and the Pirates were able to do the same to Tulane. This same ECU team that couldn’t come up with the big hit against Houston did just about everything right in the three-game sweep over the Green Wave.
The season is quickly winding down and every win is pivotal for the Pirates if they are going to get the chance to host an NCAA regional.
ECU coach Cliff Godwin doesn’t want his team to worry about things like NCAA tournament berths and hosting regionals. He wants his team to finish strong, and they are off to a good start with that after their performance in New Orleans.
That same Tulane team won series over Cincinnati and Houston this season. The Pirates, though, were just the much better team versus the Wave.
It all started on Friday night. The Pirates and Tulane were tied 5-5 when ECU pushed across a pair of runs in the eighth and ninth to win the opener 9-5. The Pirates scored the two runs in the eighth without a hit.
With the opening night win under their belts, the Pirates set out to take the series with a Saturday win.
Dwanya Williams-Sutton was the hitting star of the second game. He blasted a pair of home runs in support of freshman pitcher Alec Burleson in an 8-3 win. Burleson pitched 7 and 1/3 innings in picking up the win.
“I thought we played as well as we have in a long time today,” head coach Cliff Godwin told the media after the game on Saturday. “Obviously, it starts on the mound with (Alec) Burleson, but I thought we executed what we were trying to do offensively as good as we have done all year against their guy, who had the best numbers and who has been pitching well the last couple weekends.”
The Pirates took control of game three in the top of the first when Spencer Brickhouse hit a two-run homer in ECU’s first turn at bat. Tyler Smith allowed just a single run in over five innings of work as the Pirates took the third game of the set by a 6-1 score.
The win was a part of a recipe that has come through for the Pirates all season. Tyler Smith got the win, allowing one earned run on five hits with four strikeouts in five innings of work. Jake Agnos worked three scoreless frames of relief giving up one hit and striking out four, while Trey Benton worked a scoreless ninth, fanning a pair of batters.
Former D.H. Conley star Bryant Packard ran his consecutive games hitting streak to 23 with a 3-5 effort in the series finale.
The Pirates would dearly love to host a regional, but their success has really been showcased on the road. ECU improved to 17-2 on the road with the three wins this weekend. The Diamond Bucs have the second-best road record in the entire nation. They have won nine-consecutive road games.
“It’s really odd,” said Pirate coach Cliff Godwin when asked last week about the struggles at home. “We have more people coming to the games and our guys love to play at home. We’ve struggled though. It’s supposed to be a home field advantage for a reason, so we’ve got to do a better job of playing well at home.”
The Pirates have a big, five-game week coming up. Norfolk State comes to Greenville on Tuesday, followed by a trip south to take on UNC-Wilmington. Then it’s the AAC home finale with Cincinnati coming to town for a three-game series.
Houston leads the American at 14-7. It’s still the Cougars title to lose as far as the regular season is concerned.
ECU, South Florida and Connecticut are all tied for second at 11-7. The Pirates wrap up their regular season with three games at UConn the weekend after next.
The season is quickly winding down.
Hopefully, the Pirates will finish strong and head to Clearwater, Florida, for the American Athletic Conference tournament with a host’s role in the NCAA tournament all but a formality.
The American has proven to be one of the toughest conferences in the nation. The entire league should be rewarded later this month.