No. 11 ECU set for matchup at Duke
By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
The weekly shakeup in college baseball’s national rankings saw East Carolina ranked No. 11 by Baseball America and Duke at No. 8 heading into their game tonight in Durham. D1baseball.com has the Blue Devils (30-7) ninth and ECU (26-9) at No. 12.
ECU leads the all-time series 36-12-1 and is 4-0 against the Devils since 2014, but this Duke squad is 4-1 in its last five games and reached the 30-win mark during the weekend by going 2-0 against Florida State.
“They are good team, just like USF, and we are used to playing good teams because we have one of the best conferences in the country,” said hot-hitting Pirate leadoff man and Greenville native Bryant Packard, who is on a 13-game hit streak. “We need to just treat it like any other game.”
In addition to tonight, the Pirates travel to another Atlantic Coast Conference team next Tuesday in N.C. State, which is ranked as high as No. 2 in the polls. ECU has a series at struggling Memphis this weekend.
Jake Agnos (3-2, 3.64 ERA) is the Pirates’ probable starter against Duke. The sophomore left-hander pitched four scoreless innings last Wednesday in a start and win over Elon and faced two batters Sunday against South Florida.
The Bulls won 5-4 on Sunday in Greenville to take that series despite the Pirates recording a 15-2 rout on Friday.
Packard raised his season batting average to .402 to go with leading East Carolina in home runs (nine) and RBIs (32). He also is tied for the team lead with eight doubles.
Brady Lloyd has been batting behind Packard in the lineup and has a season average of .386 with 29 runs scored.
Duke’s balanced offense includes Griffin Conine with nine home runs. Joey Loperfido is batting .331 with seven doubles, two triples and five homers.
The Blue Devils also like to be busy on the base paths and are 62-of-71 on stolen base attempts this year.
Some ECU players dealt with sickness during the USF series, which included Packard playing through it and starting catcher Jake Washer missing Saturday’s game. Dwanya Williams-Sutton made a spectacular catch over the right field wall to rob a home run on Saturday and aggravated his back while making the grab, but started all four games last week in which the Pirates went 2-2.
“I didn’t know if Dwanya would be able to play (Sunday) after leaving the game Saturday,” ECU coach Cliff Godwin said. “Washer was home throwing up sick and Dusty Baker was home throwing up sick and Packard didn’t play in the outfield because he was worried about maybe throwing up on the field, so he had to DH. Our guys fought, but we just didn’t do enough (against the Bulls).”
Contact Ronnie Woodward at email@example.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.