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Perfect game ball going to Kuchmaner's mom

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Jake Kuchmaner, right, jogs at the start of East Carolina baseball practice at Clark-LeClair Stadium on Tuesday.

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

A couple of things often overlooked during a baseball no-hitter or perfect game can be: What happens with the ball after the final out and also the catcher’s role in the rare feat.

East Carolina’s Jake Kuchmaner, who threw a perfect game Sunday at Maryland in retiring all 27 Terrapins to complete an ECU weekend sweep, is saving the ball to give to his mom, Sue.

“Her support has been unreal throughout my entire career, so that is for her,” he said before Tuesday’s practice by the 14th-ranked Pirates (15-6).

Also on Tuesday, Seth Caddell said he could sense the anticipation and pressure build as Sunday’s game progressed. Caddell is ECU’s backup catcher, but he started in place of Jake Washer and served as the backstop for all nine innings.

“They were swinging the bats really aggressively and even with two strikes, so if (the ball) was out of the zone then I knew I had to stay in front of it,” Caddell said of preserving the first perfect game ever by the Pirates and the 28th in NCAA Division I history.

Kuchmaner, a left-handed sophomore who is not a hard-thrower but relies mainly on location and changing the speed of his pitches, garnered national attention earlier this month when he fell one strike short of a no-hitter at Ole Miss. Then last Tuesday at Duke he threw 75 pitches in a 5.2-inning relief outing and gave up one hit.

The lefty’s last three appearances have spanned a total of 23.1 innings with three runs allowed on two hits and 23 strikeouts with four walks.

“There is no easy way to explain it,” East Carolina coach Cliff Godwin said. “I’ve been coaching for a long time and I’ve never seen anything like what he has done in the past three outings. It is just special and I don’t know if you could ever replicate what he has done, but he is pitching with a lot of confidence.”

Gavin Williams is slated to be the Pirates’ starting pitcher today at Clark-LeClair Stadium versus UNC Wilmington (11-10). First pitch is at 5 p.m.

There is plenty of buzz still surrounding Kuchmaner and the Pirates after Sunday’s outing, but even the pitcher himself said Tuesday that balance is needed as the team transitions into this week’s four-game slate. The Pirates will begin American Athletic Conference play this weekend in welcoming in UCF.

“It has been awesome, but the support has been here even before (Sunday) and everyone has been super supportive,” said Kuchmaner, who with a 1.48 ERA and 2-0 record in 30.1 innings this year is likely headed to the weekend rotation. “I’m not trying to look into it all too much and am trying to move on, because we are playing a good Wilmington club and then a weekend series against UCF.

“I have to remember that some of this stuff is good to look at, but we have games this week. I have to take care of my job this week.”

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

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