Sweeps just aren’t that common in leagues as good as the American Athletic Conference. On this first weekend of play, only East Carolina was able to take all three games.
The difference between winning two out of three in a conference series and sweeping is monumental.
Take the Central Florida sweep into account. The Pirates now essentially have a four-game lead in the standings over a very good Knights team. ECU has a three-game lead and owns the tiebreaker over UCF should they need it down the road.
Jake Kuchmaner, coming off of his perfect game at Maryland from the week before, received a nice ovation from the fans before taking the mound on Sunday. Kuchmaner wasn’t announced as the Sunday starter this week until late, because Pirate Coach Cliff Godwin said Kuchmaner was tired from his week before.
Kuchmaner has been the big surprise of the season to date. His 8 2/3 innings of no-hit baseball at Ole Miss was stunning enough. “Kuch” pitched well at Duke in relief, and then was perfect at Maryland last week.
Jake obviously wanted to excel in front of the home fans on Sunday. He was the Pirates’ biggest cheerleader on Friday and Saturday, providing a great boost of energy from the dugout. He is obviously a leader for this team off the field, and you can tell that he truly relishes his role on this team.
Before taking the mound on Sunday, Kuchmaner went to every one of his teammates and gave them a hug.
Kuchmaner was probably due to give up a hit or two. He opened the game by giving up back-to-back home runs before settling down.
He would pitch 4 1/3 innings, giving up three hits and walking four. The four walks and the two home runs were signs that Kuchmaner was still recovering from all of the innings he had logged.
One of the best things about my job is the access that I am allowed. I shot video for the games this weekend for WNCT-TV. Usually, the best angle for baseball video is from behind home plate.
Sometimes, though, I’ll go down in the dugout to shoot the video. It gives fans a different angle of things. It also allows me to see and hear the game from a position not available to many.
Kuchmaner came off the mound after that first inning on Sunday with a smile on his face. He told his teammates, “I guess I got that out of the way quickly.” Everyone smiled, because those two home runs weren’t going to win this game for UCF. Not by a long shot.
That’s probably the thing that I like most about this team. They may fall behind, but they are never out of a game. After giving up a pair of runs in the first on Sunday, the Pirates answered with three runs in the bottom of the frame.
Experience is also a big key with this squad. Turner Brown played a magnificent game at shortstop. His home run in the 7th put the Pirates ahead for good.
Spencer Brickhouse’s second home run in as many games gave the Pirates an insurance run they would need in the 9th inning.
Connecticut, Wichita State and Cincinnati all won their respective series, but none of the three were able to sweep. Again, winning a series gives you a one-game lead in the standings. A sweep makes it three plus the advantage in a tiebreaker.
The Pirates have a much needed break this week, not playing a midweek game. ECU is on the road the next three weekends. The Pirates visit South Florida and then head to Houston and UCLA over the next three weekends. The Pirates will look to avenge their loss to Duke at home on April 3rd.
There’s still a ton of baseball to be played, but the Pirates couldn’t ask for a better start in the American.