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ECU sweeps away Knights

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East Carolina's Lane Hoover, top right, celebrates with teammates during Saturday's win against UCF at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Turner Brown waved his arms to the crowd and pumped his fist as he rounded the bases for a go-ahead solo home run Sunday at Clark-LeClair Stadium, perhaps knowing that there are a lot of games remaining in the college baseball season but also that sweeps can be huge in the American Athletic Conference.

No. 14 ECU completed a sweep of UCF on Sunday, winning 6-5 to finish the first weekend of AAC games.

Brown’s high homer to right field began the bottom of the seventh inning for a 5-4 edge. From there, Sam Lanier, Evan Voliva and Alec Burleson — accounting for the final half of the six pitchers used by the Pirates — protected the lead to give ECU (18-6, 3-0) a second sweep in as many weekends.

Spencer Brickhouse’s solo homer in the eighth made it 6-4.

The first two swings of the game were home runs to left field by UCF (15-9, 0-3) off Jake Kuchmaner, who crafted a perfect game last Sunday at Maryland, and the Pirates trailed 4-3 after the top of the fifth.

UCF scored in the first inning of all three games, but the Knights left Greenville without a victory.

“Going 2-1 versus 3-0 is a big swing,” Pirate coach Cliff Godwin said of the sweep. “Our first two years here as a coaching staff, we sat in hotels and restaurants and swept the last weekend and with other losses we would have tied for the conference championship. We want to win the conference championship and there is a lot to be done between now and then, but it is a lot better being 3-0 than 2-1.”

The Pirates trailed 4-3 in the bottom of the fifth when Seth Caddell lined a single into left field with two outs to score Brown, creating the third and final tie of the day.

Brown’s clutch home run came on a 1-0 pitch from reliever Garrett Westberg (2-2).

“That is probably the first one I’ve ever hit that I knew was gone right away,” Brown said. “That was a cool feeling. Our fans were awesome all weekend and they came out and supported us and were a big reason why we swept them this weekend.”

Brickhouse’s homer was his fifth of the season. He totaled six hits and eight RBIs in the sweep.

UCF made it 6-5 in the ninth and bunted with No. 3 hitter Matthew Mika to try to score speedy Ray Alejo from third base, but Burleson scooped the ball and retired Alejo at home plate. A popup to Brown then ended the game.

“We work on that at practice all the time and if you can get the out at home, then get the out at home,” Burleson said of the quick defensive decision-making. “It was bunted right back to me and (Caddell) was right there to tag him out.”

Like the Pirates, UCF used five relievers.

Pirate star outfielder Bryant Packard (1-for-2, run) was replaced during the fifth inning.

“He tweaked something and had to come out of the game, so we had to go with somebody else,” Godwin said.

Voliva (3-1) got the win with one scoreless inning. Burleson went the final 1.1 frames for his second save.

Kuchmaner faced four batters in the top of the fourth, striking out three and walking one. He needed only six pitches to retire the side in order in the fourth.

He left the game during the top of the fifth with ECU leading 3-2 and ended up being charged with three runs on two hits in 4.1 innings. The left-hander struck out three Knights and walked four.

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

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