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MONDAY UPDATE: ECU moves up in rankings

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East Carolina fans cheer during the weekend series against Cincinnati at Clark-LeClair Stadium. The Pirates took two of three in the series to improve their record to 37-13.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, May 13, 2018

East Carolina’s 4-1 week moved the Pirates up one spot in each of the major college baseball polls Monday.

ECU is ranked No. 9 by D1baseball.com and 13th in the Baseball America Top 25. The Pirates, who won their weekend series versus Cincinnati despite dropping Game 1 by one run Friday night, are set to host Campbell on Tuesday and then close the regular season at Connecticut in a Thursday through Saturday matchup.

Sunday game story

The chances of an American Athletic Conference team hosting a NCAA baseball regional were dwindling for most of the afternoon Sunday.

No. 10 East Carolina changed that trajectory in a major way by rallying against a struggling Cincinnati bullpen and it was the Pirates who were celebrating a 6-5 comeback win at Clark-LeClair Stadium late in the afternoon to keep them solidly in the regional host discussion.

The clutch series win during the penultimate week of the regular season moved the Pirates (37-13, 13-8) alone into second place in the AAC behind Houston, which has finished with a 16-8 league record. ECU will close its conference slate with three important games at Connecticut.

Bullpen pitchers by Cincinnati (26-24, 11-10), which led 5-0 in the fifth inning on the hot day, posted seven combined walks during the final three innings against the patient Pirates.

Andrew Henrickson hit a two-run single in the bottom of the eighth and Turner Brown led off the ECU ninth with a solo home run to cut the deficit to 5-4. Bryant Packard singled and the next two batters walked to load the bases for Connor Litton’s game-ending, two-run single to right field.

“I felt like if we could get to their bullpen then we would have a better chance, and we just had to manage it,” Pirate coach Cliff Godwin said. “It was just a great job by our guys.”

Litton’s winning hit came on an 0-2 pitch from Clayton Colvin. A.J. Kullman and Colvin were the Bearcats’ final two pitchers and neither got an out while facing three combined batters.

“When you are standing on the base and watching everybody run at you (to celebrate), it’s one of those things where if you’ve never experienced it and once you do, you’ll never forget it,” Litton said of his game-winner. “It was a pretty great moment and I’m just glad that guys got on base to let me do it.”

Jake Kuchmaner was ECU’s sixth and final pitcher. He tossed two scoreless innings to improve his season record to 3-0.

Jake Agnos gave up three runs in 1 1/3 innings for his second short start in five days. But the bullpen work included Trey Benton with 2 2/3 scoreless frames directly after Agnos, Davis Kirkpatrick not allowing a run in 1 2/3 innings and Ryan Ross with a scoreless top of the seventh.

Kirkpatrick, Ross, Henrickson and West Covington were honored before the game for senior day.

“It was a tough today and Agnos was on fumes to be able to even start and we were hoping to be able to get just three or four innings out of him,” Godwin said. “Davis said he had one inning and Ryan Ross said he had one inning. They probably wouldn’t have had even one inning if it wasn’t for senior day, so there was just a lot of gutsy performances by a lot of guys.”

Kirkpatrick pitched in all four of ECU’s games this week, in which the Pirates went 3-1, and he didn’t yield a run to continue his stellar campaign.

“With a day like this on senior day, we just had a bunch of relentless guys out here who love to compete and just want to win so badly,” Kirkpatrick said. “It was a lot of fun out here and it’s a memory that I will always have.”

Jake Washer got out of a nasty funk at the plate by going 3-for-4 with a home run and double. Packard’s 2-for-5 outing extended his hit streak to 28 games.

Cincinnati starter Cam Alldred pitched six innings with six strikeouts and one run on five hits.

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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