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ECU wins title to complete resume

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East Carolina's Spencer Brickhouse (42) was named the American Athletic Conference tournament Most Valuable Player.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, May 26, 2018

East Carolina earned the American Athletic Conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA baseball tournament Saturday by winning the AAC tournament in Clearwater, Fla., as the No. 4 seed, and the Pirates are likely to be hosting NCAA regional games next weekend at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

That should become official Sunday night when the NCAA announces the 16 regional hosts and the Pirates are projected to be one of them.

ECU (43-16) beat Connecticut 4-3 while playing for the fifth straight day. The Pirates were in the league tournament championship game for the third time in four years and they captured their second title, joining the 2015 championship.

“It’s hard to put into words, but this team has worked hard all year and they deserve it,” senior Davis Kirkpatrick said on the Pirate IMG Network. “UConn is a great club, but this is just an incredible moment for ECU and I love this team to death.”

Jake Agnos pitched four scoreless innings and that was followed by Ryan Ross (3-4) yielding two runs in one inning, Trey Benton retiring six of his seven batters and then Kirkpatrick tossed two scoreless innings for his third save of the year.

ECU is 12th in the RPI rankings heading into the regional hosts announcement. It moved up one spot after the victory over the Huskies (35-20-1).

“I have ECU as a host. The RPI, 19 road wins and a series win over North Carolina are loud,” said college baseball analyst Mike Rooney, who will be part of ESPN’s coverage of the NCAA tournament. “This is a club with a little bit of everything, including postseason experience, and I think they’re a threat to go to Omaha (for the College World Series).”

Neither Duke or N.C. State made it past pool play at the ACC tournament in Durham. Texas, another bubble team this week in terms of hosting, went 0-2 at the Big 12 tournament.

“Pirate Nation, we’ll see you in Greenville next week!” ECU coach Cliff Godwin said to end his postgame interview on the American Digital Network.

Agnos fanned Conor Moriarty to end the top of the fourth, marking his ninth strikeout and ending his outing with no runs allowed on six hits with no walks. The left-hander faced a bases-loaded, no-out situation the previous inning and he used three straight strikeouts to get out of it unscathed. The score was 0-0 at the time.

“I thought that was the key to the game,” Godwin said.

The Pirates took the lead for good thanks to three straight RBI singles in the bottom of the fifth. They were produced by Spencer Brickhouse, Jake Washer and Andrew Henrickson.

East Carolina players named to the all-tournament team were Jake Kuchmaner, Brickhouse, Turner Brown, and Henrickson. Brickhouse earned MVP honors.

Bryant Packard, Brickhouse and Henrickson each went 2-for-4 against the Huskies. Brown’s sacrifice fly in the sixth scored Brady Lloyd for a 4-2 lead.

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

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