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Pirate ace blows away Huskies

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East Carolina ace Jake Agnos follows through on a pitch against Connecticut at Clark-LeClair Stadium on Thursday.

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Jeff Hoffman wowed plenty of professional baseball scouts at East Carolina from 2012 to 2014 before he was selected as the ninth overall pick in the 2014 Major League Baseball draft.

It was Jake Agnos’ turn at Clark-LeClair Stadium on Thursday, when about 30 scouts were packed into their designated seating area, and it came in a marquee American Athletic Conference matchup that the No. 12 Pirates won 5-1 over Connecticut thanks to Agnos’ career-high 14 strikeouts in 8.2 innings.

The 14 strikeouts were the most by a Pirate pitcher since Hoffman fanned 14 against Western Kentucky during the 2014 LeClair Classic.

Agnos gave way to Evan Voliva for the final out after he walked his only batter on a close 3-2 offering for his 129th pitch of the night. In a matchup against UConn ace Mason Feole, who gave up three runs on eight hits in 5.1 innings, Agnos was firing fastballs 92 to 94 miles per hour during the top of the ninth for AAC-leading ECU (27-10, 9-1) in front of fans who remained in the stands after the announced attendance of 3,024 and were cheering on the Pirates and their lead pitcher.

“The crowd was awesome and was pumping me up,” said Agnos, who lowered his season ERA to 2.85 in his ninth straight start with at least seven strikeouts. “That definitely helped out.”

Feole, who was the AAC preseason pitcher of the year, and Agnos, are both left-handed juniors who played together last summer for the USA Baseball collegiate national team.

Agnos allowed five hits. The lone run by UConn (24-14, 7-6) was a solo home run by Pat Winkel in the top of the second, which was followed by key Pirate runs in the second and fourth frames for a 3-1 edge during the middle innings.

“You are talking about going against another big-time draft (prospect) and he was on that USA team, and Feole has been one of the best pitchers in our league for three years,” ECU coach Cliff Godwin said of the starting pitching matchup. “Every pitch matters. … The score ended up being 5-1, but for a long time in the game it was 2-1, and I thought that’s the best Jake has ever pitched.”

The teams will conclude their series with a doubleheader Saturday beginning at 9 a.m.

The Pirates scored in the first inning and were up 2-1 in the second to give their ace an early cushion.

Agnos (5-2) struck out the side in order in the top of the sixth, which was part of him retiring 13 straight Huskies into the ninth inning.

Singles tallies by the Pirates in the first, second, fourth, seventh and eighth innings created their offensive output.

Feole struck out five and walked four in his 5.1 innings. His night included three balks in the bottom of the fourth. ECU’s run in the fourth came on a Brady Lloyd RBI single for a 3-1 lead.

Lloyd (3-for-5) also smacked an RBI double in the bottom of the second to break a 1-1 tie. Turner Brown batted in the cleanup spot for the Pirates and was 2-for-3, and Jake Washer was 2-for-3 with an RBI.

Voliva threw five pitches, getting Christian Fedko to pop up to first baseman Alec Burleson for the final out.

“I’m glad that Voliva could close it out,” Agnos said. “(Feole) is an awesome kid and one of the best pitchers that we see. … Hats off to him and to UConn because they are a tough team and have always been a lot like us and scrappy and savvy, so that was a great team win today.”

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

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