The East Carolina baseball team faced exams and five big games in what could have been a most trying week.
On the field, the Pirates had just short of a perfect week. They breezed past every test until the final game. Tulane would salvage the final game of this past weekend’s series in a thrilling 9-8 win.
Still, give this Pirate baseball team an “A” for a job well done over the last week.
Tulane then came to town with absolutely gaudy offensive numbers. That offense was silenced by the Pirate pitching staff until Sunday.
Friday night’s game got off to a big of a bizarre start. The game was delayed by rain for 90 minutes. Then part of the lighting at Clark-LeClair Stadium went out and forced another 20-minute delay.
Pirate ace Jake Agnos battled through all of that. He pitched 5 shutout innings, striking out nine while giving up only a couple of hits.
“Last year I pitched with a 10-0 lead over UCF and I tried to just get through the game,” said Agnos after the game one win. “Coach (Cliff) and Coach (Dan) Roszel told me to pitch like the game was 0-0. So that’s what I tried to do.”
Tulane came to town with the big offensive numbers, but it was East Carolina that would roll to that 14-0 win.
The Pirates would then clinch the series with an 8-2 win over Tulane on Saturday. Like they did in the first game of the series, the Pirates bolted out to a big lead and were never really threatened.
“We’ve done a good job up to this point,” said Godwin after the series-clinching win. “But we all know it could go away like that (snaps finger).”
Sunday looked to be much of the same for this Pirate team. East Carolina bolted out to a 5-0 lead. The Tulane offense struggled to get going, but finally got it cranked up and got back in the game and then some.
With the Green Wave finally hitting and lefty closer Brendan Cellucci finally silencing the ECU hitters, Tulane would position itself to salvage the third game of the series.
The Green Wave scored 9 unanswered runs before Alec Burleson got the Pirates back in the game with a three-run home run to cut the lead to 9-8.
ECU loaded the bases in the 8th and the 9th but couldn’t get that tying run across.
In the 8th with the bases juiced, Cellucci struck out Spencer Brickhouse and got Burleson to fly out to right field.
In the 9th, with Bryant Packard waiting on deck, Ryder Giles bounced a ball up the middle that was fielded at 2nd base and ended the game on a 4-3 double play.
“Yeah, I mean it sucks, but I had full trust in Ryder Giles, and he’s a freshman in a huge spot for him,” Packard said when asked about that final out. “He executed the plan and hit the ball up the middle, which is what we wanted to do off that guy. They were just pinching in a little too much, but yeah, I was itching for an at-bat.”
As successful as the week was, it ended on a sour note. ECU dropped the third game of the series with Tulane, 9-8.
“Anytime you lose, it is tough, but I am proud of our guys because they competed,” said Pirate coach Cliff Godwin. “That is a staple of our program. They played a little bit better than us and their guys made a couple more pitches when our guys didn’t make a couple pitches.”
The Pirate’s RPI (Rating Percentage Index) rose to as high as number 3 in the nation over the weekend. That RPI stands at 6 to start the week. The RPI is one of the major determining factors when the NCAA Baseball Committee sets the 64-team field for the upcoming national tournament.
The Pirates are now ranked in the top ten of the three major college baseball rankings. ECU is up to number 8 from 12th by Perfect Game. ECU is up to number 9 from 11th by by Baseball America. ECU is also up two notches by D1Baseball.com, up to number 10 from 12th
The Pirates were scheduled to take Monday and Tuesday off before getting back to work at practice on Wednesday.
East Carolina now stands at 13-2 in the American Athletic Conference. Second-place Tulane is three and a half games back and the Pirates have the tiebreaker over the Green Wave.
Third-place Cincinnati is also three and a half games back, and the Bearcats have played 18 conference games to date, compared to ECU’s 15.
The Pirates are the class of the American and look to take another step toward the program’s first ever American regular season title this weekend in Cincy.