With still two weeks to go in the regular season, East Carolina is on the cusp of a first-ever regular season title in the American Athletic Conference.
The Pirates are now a gaudy 16-2 in league play after sweeping Cincinnati on the road this weekend. When the dust had settled around the league Sunday afternoon, the Pirates stood with a magic number of 1 to clinch the title.
As a kid I was always fascinated by the term “magic number.” In keeping up with the pennant races it was always fun to see if I could figure out that number on my own.
The Pirates have been so dominant in league play that they have left little doubt. ECU has a series on the road at Wichita State and then at home with Memphis, needing a single win to clinch. Or, the Pirates would need a single loss by Tulane to clinch.
The Pirates continue to rise in the national rankings, though the team’s RPI is better than their national ranking. As of Monday the ECU RPI (Ratings Percentage Index, primarily used when seeding teams for the NCAA tournament) was 4. That number goes up and down depending on the Pirates’ opposition and how others on ECU’s schedule fare.
Former Pirate coach Gary Overton, who now works for ECU as an assistant AD, served on the NCAA Selection Committee for baseball for several years. He was recently a guest on my radio show on Pirate Radio 1250 and 930.
“The current RPI would most certainly have ECU as a national seed,” said Overton. “What they have done to date is most impressive.”
East Carolina has a pair of midweek games left on the schedule. The biggest of those will be Wednesday night’s match up with nationally-ranked North Carolina.
Last year the Pirates and Tar Heels played a three-game, weekend series with games in Greenville, Durham and Chapel Hill. This year there is just the one game, Wednesday night at Boshamer Stadium.
While the UNC game is just that, a single game, you have to realize just how important the game is to the Pirates and all of Pirate Nation.
Cliff Godwin has said as much through the years.
He’s told us on countless occasions how much he and his teammates wanted to beat the likes of UNC and North Carolina State. He’s also got his team believing that if they play their brand of baseball — Pirate baseball — then they can play with anyone in the nation.
The Pirates will head to Chapel Hill ranked as high as 7th in the polls. Perfect Game has ECU at 7, up from 8th. Baseball America moved ECU up one slot from 9th to 8th. D1Baseball.com also has ECU up one slot, from 10th to 9th.
This is a Pirate baseball team that continues to thrive with a different hero every time out. The starting pitching has been excellent. The bullpen has been clutch. The Pirate hitters, one through nine, make it very difficult to get through them all without getting roughed up a bit.
It’s very difficult in baseball to win 16 out of 18 games in any part of your schedule. Taking 16 out of 18 in your league is almost unheard of. Add in the problems with weather, all of the doubleheaders, all of the travel in the American, and you get an incredible baseball season.
This is just the start. ECU has positioned itself to possibly crack the top eight national seeds for the upcoming NCAA tournament. That’s the goal, to host a Regional, win the Regional and then host the Super Regional.
The ultimate goal is Omaha, and the Pirates certainly look the part.
Still, there are eight games remaining, plus the American tournament.
The Pirates enjoy sweeps. Perhaps they have sights set on sweeping the American regular season and tournament titles.
That would almost certainly put the Pirates in line for that national seed.