Jake Kuchmaner’s perfect game for East Carolina on Sunday in a 3-0 win at Maryland completed a 3-game sweep for the No. 14 Pirates and assured the sophomore left-hander of a place in ECU history as the first pitcher to keep a runner from reaching base in a 9-inning contest.
Kuchmaner has allowed just two hits in his last 23 and one-third innings after a period of inactivity to start the season.
Pirates coach Cliff Godwin said hard work and a good attitude have helped Kuchmaner’s development.
“It’s pretty simple,” Godwin said. “A guy who has shown up from day one on campus and worked his tail off. Every single day, he has been a great teammate. He has a selfless mindset where he wants to help the team in any way.
“He didn’t pitch for the first seven games this year. He never complained about playing time. He just showed up, was a great teammate and worked his tail off.
“It does not surprise me with the success he is having because of the way be goes about his business.”
‘Checked the boxes’ as recruit
Effective scouting and exemplary qualities on the prep level accompanied Kuchmaner’s entrance to the ECU program.
“He’s from Marvin Ridge High School,” Godwin said. “Coach (Jeff) Palumbo and Coach (Dan) Roszel knew him from the travel circuit and just knew he was a winner. They talked to all of his coaches. He didn’t have the 90-mile an hour fast ball or just this unbelievable pitch. He just knew how to pitch. He was an unbelievable worker and a great kid. He’s got a 3.9-something cumulative GPA (grade point average). He checks all the boxes. He’s a guy that you need to go see and watch, just to appreciate what he can do for your team. Those guys saw him.
“I actually saw him pitch at UNC-Wilmington in the summer before his junior year. I liked him, but really liked all the intangibles that Jeff and Dan had told me about. Obviously, if he had been the type of pitcher that he was and the coach was like, ‘He’s lazy. He’s not a hard worker. He’s not a great teammate. He’s not a good student,’ then we wouldn’t have taken him but with all the other things, it was a no brainer.”
Defensive plays in support
Most pitching gems include an outstanding defensive play or two in support of the accomplishment.
“There was a lot of good defensive plays,” Godwin said of Sunday’s performance. “There were a couple of pop-ups, the wind was blowing. Turner Brown had to catch a pop-up that was probably the highest one I’ve ever seen. Bryant Packard made a good play in left field where the sun was in his eyes.
“Brady Lloyd made a couple of good plays on pop-ups with the wind blowing. Alec Burleson’s play in the ninth was an exceptional play. Probably because he’s a left-handed first baseman is the only way he could make it. Being that Kuch is a great athlete as well, he was able to cover first base. With one out in the ninth, that ball that was hit to Burley was definitely a SportsCenter Top 10 play.”
AAC opener at hand
The Pirates start play in the American Athletic Conference at home tonight at 6:35 with the first of a 3-game set with Central Florida.
Both clubs are 15-6.
“It’s going to be another great year for the league,” Godwin said. “You look around and there is a lot of teams that have played well. A lot of great coaches and a lot of great talent in our league. We’re not going to change our approach of what we’re doing. We’re going to go out there and focus on what we do and try to do that at a high level.
“We’ll be tested because it’s a tough league. You have to go out there and play your best baseball and at times you can play good baseball and still lose. You just have to be consistent with the way you show up every day.”
ECU took three of four from the Knights in 2018.
Camels win at Duke
Godwin’s contention about parity in college baseball was reinforced by Campbell’s 12-6 win at Duke on Wednesday. A week earlier, the Camels lost 7-4 at home to N.C. Central.
“Campbell is a good team,” Godwin said. “Every day you have to go out and play your best baseball. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing. We could lose to Monmouth. We could beat Ole Miss. It is what it is. If you go out and don’t take care of your business, then there’s teams that can beat you out there. Everybody’s got one pitcher. Everybody has got a closer that can shut you down at any point in time. No, it does not surprise me that Campbell beat Duke.”
The UNC-Wilmington game that was postponed on Wednesday has been reset for Tuesday, April 23, at 6:30 p.m.. The Pirates were originally supposed to play Old Dominion that evening but will instead visit the Monarchs on Wednesday, April 24, at 6 p.m.
Packard still mending
Spencer Brickhouse has fully recovered from an abdominal strain, but Packard is still feeling the effects from a lower left arm injury that sidelined him earlier this season.
“I think Brickhouse is definitely 100 percent,” Godwin said. “I’d say Packard is between 90 and 95 percent.”
Godwin knew two-thirds of his weekend rotation Thursday.
“We’re going (Jake) Agnos, (Tyler) Smith, TBA,” Godwin said.
That would leave Kuchmaner as a strong possibility for Sunday.
“We’ve got to make sure he feels good,” Godwin said.