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ECU arms are ready

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East Carolina's Jake Agnos, left, talks with coach Cliff Godwin during practice on Feb. 12, 2019. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

East Carolina baseball has four left-handed pitchers and two of them, Alec Burleson and Jake Agnos, are set to be the Pirates’ first two starting pitchers of the season.

They will go about their starts in different ways, naturally, versus Radford at Clark-LeClair Stadium. 

Burleson, a sophomore two-way player, gets the first Friday nod, and he also will be used in the batting order versus the Highlanders and during other games this season for No. 11-ranked ECU. Agnos, a junior, has 24 career starts — the most among any current Pirate pitcher — and he is exclusively a hurler who relies on power and his unique energy and strikeout ability.

“I think Burleson and I are completely different pitchers,” said Agnos, who has 150 career strikeouts and 70 walks in 128 innings. “He’s got sink to his ball, and I have heaviness. We both come from the left side, but also our bullpen and staff is so deep that no two pitchers are really alike.”

Junior righty Tyler Smith, who was 7-1 with a 1.78 ERA a year ago, will be the Sunday starter. 

Fifth-year Pirate coach Cliff Godwin also said Tuesday that lead closer options in the bullpen are veterans Trey Benton, Evan Voliva and Sam Lanier joined by freshmen Carter Spivey and Ryder Giles.

“For Sam Lanier, his last two outings are as best as he’s ever pitched here, even his freshman year when he was in a regional championship game,” Godwin said of the senior.

Like Agnos, Benton has alternated throughout his career between a starter and reliever.

Godwin said pitching roles still will be fluid.

“That is the rotation for this weekend and we’ll see after this weekend if that is the rotation for next weekend,” he said. “What has impressed me about our pitching staff is there are a lot of great quality arms. We really could have gone a lot of different ways, but Burly earned it for this weekend and then we’ll see.”

The decision for opening weekend leaves hard-throwing Gavin Williams and lefty Jake Kuchmaner as quality midweek starting options, beginning next week at Campbell.

Burleson’s role beyond starting Friday at 4 p.m. will be worth monitoring. He emerged more as a pitcher as a freshman, finishing offensively with a .252 batting average and three extra-base hits that were all doubles.

But he also was named most outstanding player in the summer Cal Ripken League, where he thrived with 10 home runs with 44 RBIs to go with a 0.34 ERA in pitching 26.1 innings.

“It will be whatever coach Godwin feels is the best lineup, whether that is me at first base or Brickhouse at first base or one of us (as designated hitter) or me not in the lineup,” Burleson said. “Whatever he feels best, but it’s definitely a bonus being able to pitch on Friday and then knowing that my week is not over. ... Last year, I didn’t handle it well because you just have to flip a switch from going from the (pitcher’s) mound.

“On the mound, I like to work really fast, but at the plate, I have to slow myself down. This year I think during our scrimmages and stuff I have handled it well and am more prepared.”

Burleson showed comfort on the weekend last year, posting a 5-2 record, four saves and 3.33 ERA in 54 innings. Now he is bracing to be ECU’s first pitcher of a new season.

“The only thing that will change is probably a little more butterflies pitching on Friday,” he said. “I just had a really good bullpen right now, so it’s just focusing on winning one pitch and being in the moment.”

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

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