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Packard takes top honor

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East Carolina's Bryant Packard is safe at first base after a hit against Campbell at Clark-LeClair Stadium on May 15.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Monday, May 21, 2018

Bryant Packard was already set to take an East Carolina-record 32-game hit streak into the American Athletic Conference baseball tournament in Clearwater, Fla., and he added more momentum Monday when he was named AAC player of the year.

He is the first Pirate to ever win the American award. He led the league in five offensive categories, highlighted by his .418 batting average. He also was first in total bases (135), hits (79), on-base percentage (.475) and slugging percentage (.714).

“What an absolute honor, thought this was something I’d only ever dream of,” Packard, a Greenville native, tweeted after the announcement by the AAC. “Thank you for everyone (who has) helped me along the way. Still a lot of season left.”

Packard’s award highlighted a big day for ECU (39-15), which plays Central Florida (35-19) at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Round 1 of the AAC tournament, as freshman left-hander Alec Burleson (5-1 record, 2.91 ERA) was named American rookie pitcher of the year, and the Pirates took the team academic excellence award thanks to a 3.46 cumulative GPA.

League champion Houston earned pitcher of the year (Aaron Fletcher) and coach of the year (Todd Whitting).

This is an important week for the AAC No. 4 seed Pirates, who are ranked No. 16 by D1baseball.com, 19th by Baseball America and are No. 13 in the RPI rankings — and other teams including Duke, Coastal Carolina, Texas and Connecticut — to determine who gets the final few NCAA regional host spots. A deep conference tournament run for ECU or UConn, the two teams that tied for third place in the American, could solidify hosting.

“We’re going to approach to win it,” Pirate coach Cliff Godwin said of the day-to-day and game-to-game aspect of the double-elimination league tourney. “It is be where our feet are, but we are not going down there just to hang out. We are going down there to play our best baseball.”

Junior pitcher Chris Holba (9-1, 2.08 ERA), who is slated to start against the fifth-seeded Knights, was named first-team all-conference, and he was joined by Packard and infield teammates Brady Lloyd and Spencer Brickhouse. Second-team honors went to pitcher Tyler Smith and outfielder Dwanya Williams-Sutton.

ECU began its league slate in late March by winning two of three at UCF, scoring 12-4 and 11-6 victories in the final two games.

The 16 NCAA regional sites will be announced Sunday, the same day as the American tournament championship game. All tournament games can be viewed on the American Digital Network leading up to the ESPNews broadcast of the championship Sunday at noon.

“At the end of the day the regular season is over and we won 39 games out of 54,” Godwin said. “If we would have played 56, we would have won 40 and that’s one of our goals. But now it is the postseason and we’ll get ready for that.”

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

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Humans of Greenville

@HumansofGville

Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

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