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A lot on the line at UConn

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East Carolina's Bryant Packard slides safely into second base for a double against Campbell at Clark-LeClair Stadium on Tuesday.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

There is no shortage of implications for No. 9 East Carolina in its baseball series at Connecticut that begins Thursday and concludes Saturday on the final day of the regular season for all American Athletic Conference clubs.

Houston is done with AAC play and has posted a 16-8 league record. A best-case scenario for ECU (38-13, 13-8) is a sweep in Storrs, Conn., to tie Houston for the league championship. Winning two of three against UConn (30-17-1, 12-9) also will greatly strengthen East Carolina’s resume as an NCAA regional host. For now, projections call for the Pirates to be one of the 16 hosts.

The contrary is the Pirates not winning against the Huskies could drop them outside of the top-four seeds for the AAC tournament and weaken their NCAA resume.

“We can’t win the conference championship on Thursday and we can’t win it on Friday,” ECU coach Cliff Godwin said. “If we’re lucky enough to win on Thursday and Friday then we can go for that conference championship, but we just need to focus on being where our feet are.”

D1baseball.com has the Pirates hosting a regional at Clark-LeClair Stadium as the No. 12 overall seed. Baseball America also has the Pirates hosting as the No. 14 seed.

ECU’s RPI ranking is No. 13 and UConn’s is 23rd.

Pirate sophomore leadoff hitter Bryant Packard can make history in the series opener with a hit, which would give him one in 30 straight games. He tied the school record of 29 on Tuesday at home when he went 3-for-5 and scored three runs in a 12-7 win against Campbell.

“It would mean a lot because I didn’t even know they keep track of hit streaks like that until I guess about a week ago when I was inching near it,” Packard said. “It is an honor.”

The perfect complement lately to Packard has been Dwanya Williams-Sutton, who has upped his season batting average to .383 and has eight home runs in the last eight games.

Packard is the only .400 hitter in the AAC with a .409 average. He also has 12 home runs and 45 RBIs.

“I’m very happy for him because it couldn’t happen to a better person and he’s gone through a lot of adversity with his back,” Godwin said. “What he’s done for us in solidifying the top of our lineup has made our offense go this year.”

ECU ranks first in the conference with 54 home runs and also is second in runs scored (325) and third in batting average (.286).

WEEKEND WATCH

Tyler Smith, East Carolina: The sophomore weekend starter was not available Sunday because of arm fatigue, and that led to extra innings for a few other Pirates, but ECU is hoping Smith could be available in some form against the Huskies. UConn ranks fourth in the American in batting average with a .281 mark.

P.J. Poulin, Connecticut: ECU was able to rally against Cincinnati’s lowly bullpen last weekend to take that series, but UConn boasts the league’s saves leader in Poulin with 13. The left-hander has made 25 relief appearances as a junior with a 3.38 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 37 1/3 innings.

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

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