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Seniors spark Pirates on diamond

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East Carolina’s Evan Voliva pitches against Utah at Clark-LeClair Stadium on March 2.

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Seniors have East Carolina baseball playing with momentum heading into a Top 25 matchup today in Durham against No. 24 Duke.

No. 14 ECU (12-5) went 4-1 last week, highlighted by a 3-2 win at Ole Miss, thanks in part to offensive spark from middle infielders Turner Brown and Brady Lloyd along with solid bullpen work.

Fifth-year senior Evan Voliva had two 2.1-inning outings, the first at Mississippi State and then on Saturday in ECU’s 12-inning victory against Marist, when Voliva allowed one hit in a scoreless stint. Former Friday starter Alec Burleson also made two relief appearances during the week, highlighted by three scoreless frames Saturday with four strikeouts.

“I thought we pitched good, overall, for the entire weekend, and we played good defense,” Pirate coach Cliff Godwin said.

Voliva, Sam Lanier and Zach Barnes all lead the team with seven relief appearances. Voliva is 2-1 with a 1.59 ERA.

Godwin also said Sunday that Jake Kuchmaner will probably not start against Duke. He and Gavin Williams (1-1, 2.57 ERA) have been ECU’s main midweek starting pitchers.

Kuchmaner was just named American Athletic Conference pitcher of the week and was one of Collegiate Baseball’s national players of the week after nearly no-hitting Ole Miss. He went 8.2 innings and threw 106 pitches with nine strikeouts, ending one strike away from the no-hitter.

On offense, Lloyd has a hit in four straight games, and his work in the Pirates’ weekend sweep of Marist included a 3-for-3 performance on Friday. He has upped his season batting average to .288.

Brown, the team’s starting shortstop, hit a home run Saturday and his 3-for-5 game Sunday included two triples to right field.

“The key is just finding ways to win,” Brown said. “Coach Godwin talks all the time that it is really hard to win college baseball games. ... It was awesome for our team to come out and get three wins this weekend.”

In the rankings

Baseball America kept East Carolina at No. 14 on Monday, and Duke is No. 24 after the Blue Devils began their Atlantic Coast Conference schedule by winning two of three at Virginia.

The lone meeting between Duke and ECU in 2018 was a 9-2 victory by the Pirates.

D1baseball.com moved East Carolina up one spot to No. 17, and it does not include Duke in its Top 25.

North Carolina suffered a weekend sweep to Clemson and dropped out of the top-5 in both polls, as far down as No. 15 by D1baseball. Undefeated N.C. State (15-0) is ranked No. 20 by D1baseball and is 21st in the Baseball America Top 25.

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

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