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Pirates travel west to face No. 1 Bruins

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East Carolina's Lane Hoover slides in to second base during the Pirates' last game at Clark-LeClair Stadium, a 6-1 victory against Duke on April 3.

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Friday, April 12, 2019

East Carolina is 21-3 in weekend college baseball games this season, and another successful weekend would provide their best national statement yet for this year.

ECU, which is ranked No. 8 in the country by D1baseball.com, arrived in Los Angeles on Thursday and is set for three games in two days against No. 1 UCLA. The Bruins (24-6) are the top team in both of the sport’s major polls and already have weekend series victories over top-five clubs Stanford and Oregon State.

The Pirates (25-7) provide another test for the Bruins thanks to their 17-2 record in 19 games to surge into the top 10.

“Going out to the West Coast and playing what everybody thinks, unanimously, is the No. 1 team in the country, it’s exciting and we’ll obviously need to play our best baseball,” said Pirate fifth-year head coach Cliff Godwin, who added that his only other experience facing a top-ranked club was when he was an assistant at Ole Miss against No. 1 Florida.

First pitch tonight at Jackie Robinson Stadium is scheduled for 9 p.m. (EST). Saturday’s doubleheader will begin at 5.

UCLA is 14-3 at home. The Bruins, who actually have allowed more home runs (21) than they have hit home runs (20), were on the road last weekend against No. 2 Stanford and won the rubber match, 10-7, on Sunday.

PAC-12-leading UCLA, which features Bryant Ward, a Greenville native and a teammate of Godwin’s at ECU, as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, then beat No. 16 UC Irvine, 9-3, in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Leadoff hitter Garrett Mitchell, who has a .345 season batting average, was 3-for-3 with two RBIs and a stolen base versus the Anteaters.

“UCLA will be ready for us because Bryant is there and he knows us and knows that we will be prepared,” Godwin said. “It will be fun. I’m excited about it and the guys for the opportunity, but it will be tough.”

The Bruins’ head coach is John Savage, who led UCLA to the 2013 national championship and under his guidance, the club has hosted NCAA regionals in five of the last nine years.

ECU hosted a regional last season and is on track to host again if it continues winning ways and remains atop the American Athletic Conference. The Pirates will look for another big pitching performance in the series opener from left-hander Jake Agnos (4-2, 2.76 ERA), who has struck out at least nine batters in five of his eight starts.

UCLA’s team ERA is 2.57.

WEEKEND WATCH

Sam Lanier, East Carolina: Lanier had the longest relief outing in Tuesday’s 9-1 win at UNC Wilmington with 2.1 innings pitched. Since March 3, the veteran reliever has yielded one total run in seven appearances, and his last two have been hitless outings.

Kyle Mora, UCLA: The Bruins’ bullpen is vital to their success, and Holden Powell has all eight of his team’s saves, but it is the right-handed junior Mora already with 25 relief outings after his 34 appearances a year ago ranked 11th in the nation. He is used in a variety of situations, coming into the weekend with 39 strikeouts and a 2.76 ERA in 29.1 innings.

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

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