East Carolina University’s baseball team began round one of the American Athletic Conference tournament against Wichita State (26-29, 9-15 conference), and the series will run from May 21 through May 26. As the No. 1 seeded team, and the No. 6 ranked team in the country, the Pirates are looking to win a spot in the NCAA tournament.
ECU (42-13, 20-4 AAC) is coming off of a series win against conference opponent University of Memphis (27-26, 10-14 AAC). In the series, ECU scored the first run in two of their last three games.
The tournament is double elimination, with the losing first round teams playing each other in the second round to advance. The winner of the tournament will advance to play in the NCAA tournament, which will start on June 15th.
According to the bracket from the AAC, all teams that lose for the first time will get an opportunity to play again a second time. Until teams reach the semifinals, they will get another chance to play in the bracket.
Junior pitcher Jake Agnos is coming off of a historic season with the Pirates. For the fourth time this season, Agnos has won the AAC Pitcher of the Week award. Not only that, he also won the 2019 AAC Pitcher of the Year award.
Agnos is a pitcher that has 31 consecutive scoreless innings while pitching, and 124 total strikeouts on the season. He is clearly been a struggle for opposing teams to deal with, especially those in the conference.
Additionally, junior catcher Jake Washer has been an asset for the Pirates the past few games. He batted in four runs and went 3-4 during the first game in their previous series against Memphis.
Sophomore pitcher Alec Burleson is another ECU player to be mindful of, as his ability to pitch and also hit the ball have given many teams issues this season. In his last outing against Memphis, Burleson hit 3-5 with three RBI’s and crossed home plate three times as well.
With head coach Cliff Godwin coming off his second consecutive AAC coach of the year award, the Pirates are definitely a team to watch heading into this upcoming tournament. Regardless of the plethora of valuable players ECU has, there are other players and teams in the tournament that viewers should keep an eye on.
The University of Cincinnati (26-29, 13-11 AAC) is the No. 2 seeded team in the tournament, and has one of the best pitching staffs in the conference.
Combined, Bearcat pitchers have 440 total strikeouts on the season, which is the most in program history. Two of these pitchers are in the school’s top 10 for career appearances, with redshirt senior pitcher David Orndorff at No. 9 and senior pitcher A.J. Kullman tied at No. 8.
On the offensive aspect, Senior outfielder A.J. Bumpass is the current team and AAC leader in triples, with 13 for the season. He has proven to be a dynamic player, and one who can come up clutch when the Bearcats need him.
From his first season with the Bearcats in 2016 to the 2019 season, his batting average has improved from a .172 to a .254. A tremendous improvement that shows how his hitting skills have gotten better, and that he is a valuable offensive weapon for this team.
The University of Cincinnati will prove difficult for most teams that have trouble hitting and getting on base. They will play No. 7 seeded University of Memphis (27-26, 10-14 AAC) in the first round.
Next, Wichita State University is the No. 8 seed in the tournament and is looking to surprise ECU in the first round.
Senior pitcher Clayton McGinness is on a hot streak, coming off of a win against the University of South Florida (26-27, 8-16 AAC) where he only allowed five hits. McGinness accomplished the same feat against ECU when they faced off earlier in the season, and is starting against the Pirates on Tuesday.
Senior first baseman Mason O’Brien has gotten a hit in 10 of his last 11 games, and has gotten on base in all 11 games. Three of his four homeruns this season were during that 11 game span. Needless to say, O’Brien and McGinness could prove difficult for ECU to handle and could very well pull of a first round upset.
The first game of the AAC tournament began yesterday at 9 a.m. with all other first round games starting shortly afterwards. ECU played after the end of the first game, where No. 4 seeded University of Connecticut (33-22, 12-12 AAC) was defeated by No. 5 seeded University of Houston (32-22, 12-12 AAC).
ECU lost to Wichita 6-2, and will go on to play Houston today at 3 p.m.