CLEARWATER, FL — East Carolina’s 18th straight win, 6-1 over Houston on Sunday, sealed the American Athletic Conference Tournament championship and gave Pirates coach Cliff Godwin his 300th career win.
The triumph also fueled hope, bordering on expectation, that No. 23 ECU (42-18) will be named a regional host when the NCAA Tournament brackets are released Monday (ESPN2, noon).
“I felt like we deserved to host after a couple of wins in the conference tournament,” Godwin said. “I don’t know how many you’ve got to win in a row, but our conference is tough. Our nonconference schedule is seventh in the country. Whatever the metrics are against the Top 50 — we played a lot of those Top 50 teams early in the season when we were scuffling.
“But our guys are really good. Our fans deserve it. Our university deserves it. I don’t need to lobby for it. The body of work speaks for itself. I would be really, really disappointed if the committee didn’t allow us to host an NCAA regional next weekend.”
Jacob Jenkins-Cowart, who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the event at BayCare Ballpark, hit a 3-run homer after singles by Zach Agnos and Bryson Worrell in the first inning.
Making the All-Tournament team from the Pirates were Jenkins-Cowart, Agnos, Alec Makarewicz and Worrell.
The Pirates added three runs in the third on an RBI single by Jenkins-Cowart and a 2-run double to the right-center gap by Jacob Starling.
Lefty C.J, Mayhue started for ECU and turned in three scoreless innings with the help of an inning-ending defensive masterpiece in the second. Catcher Ben Newton threw out a runner trying to steal second before Agnos fired home to get a tag-out at the plate as an attempted double steal transformed into a double play.
Mayhue allowed two hits and one walk while striking out three.
Josh Grosz (4-5) was credited with the win as he tossed three and two-thirds innings. He yielded three hits and one earned run with no walks and three strikeouts. Houston avoided a shutout with an RBI single by Cameron Nickens in the seventh.
Trey Yesavage gave up one hit and had one strikeout in one-third of an inning for the Pirates.
Garrett Saylor shut down the Cougars (37-24) over the last two frames with no hits, no walks and four strikeouts.
ECU improved to 4-0 against Houston this season, winning the AAC regular-season and tournament championships in the same year for the first time.