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Strike 'em out, sit 'em down: Agnos breaks strikeout records

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East Carolina pitcher Jake Agnos smiles as he steps off the mound during Thursday's win against Memphis at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, May 16, 2019

In what will be celebrated this weekend as a historic regular season for East Carolina baseball, Jake Agnos was at the forefront and dominant Thursday at Clark-LeClair Stadium despite the game’s final score later ballooning to 19-10. 

ECU’s left-handed junior pitcher vaulted up ECU and American Athletic Conference record lists during the Pirates’ win over Memphis, striking out plenty of Tigers and watching his offense tally plenty of runs along the way.

Agnos posted 10 strikeouts in five scoreless innings, setting a new East Carolina and American standard in single-season strikeouts with 124. The Pirates’ previous record was 119 by Larry Crayton in 1961. Louisville’s Kyle Funkhouser had the American’s most with 122 in 2014.

“It was awesome and I’m glad my family was here and my girlfriend,” said Agnos, a Haymarket, Va., native who is on a 31-inning scoreless streak and earlier on Thursday was named a semifinalist for national pitcher of the year by the College Baseball Foundation. “It was an awesome night. I knew I was close, but I didn’t knew which strikeout it was exactly until I got into the dugout and they all told me.

“I wasn’t trying to go get that, but just trying to throw up zeroes.”

It was 17-0 ECU when Agnos (9-2, 2.06 ERA) was replaced on the mound.

Garrett Saylor took over to begin the sixth inning, allowing fans to give the Pirates’ ace a standing ovation as his records were announced over the public address system.

“They pushed me out there,” Agnos said of his curtain call. “I got chills.”

Six of Memphis’ runs came in the top of the seventh inning.

The No. 7 Pirates (41-12, 19-3), who last weekend clinched their first AAC regular season championship, stirred up plenty of run support with four in the bottom of the first and nine more in the third.

Bryant Packard, Brady Lloyd and Spencer Brickhouse — the top three in ECU’s batting order — were replaced to begin the fourth inning. Freshman Connor Norby’s first-ever home run, a three-run shot, made it 17-0 in the fifth.

Houston’s Seth Romero holds the American’s career strikeout record with 290 from 2015-17. Agnos passed former Connecticut ace Tim Cate and is now second with 274.

“I’m happy for Jake, and he’s worked his tail off to be in this Friday role and gone out the majority of Friday nights and managed the game and gave us the chance to win,” coach Cliff Godwin said. “It was a really cool moment, but I told him that I hope he has a few more strikeouts in him.”

Memphis (26-25, 9-12) is setting up for the American tournament and not using its starting pitcher with the best season ERA, Chris Durham, in this series. UM’s normal Friday starter, Hunter Smith, is slated to match up against ECU’s Tyler Smith on Saturday to finish the regular season.

The Tigers and most of the other teams in the AAC have to win the league tournament next week in Clearwater, Fla., to make the NCAA tournament. The Pirates are projected to be an NCAA regional host, and they also are aiming for a top-eight national seed.

East Carolina’s 19 American victories are tied with 2014 Louisville for the most in a season. Joining ECU as teams with 40 overall wins nationwide heading into Thursday games were Mississippi State, UCLA, Vanderbilt, Louisville and UC Santa Barbara.

Memphis starter Danny Denz walked the first two Pirates as part of nine straight balls to begin the bottom of the first. Turner Brown and Jake Washer hit two-run singles to help set the tone for the rout.

Washer (3-for-4, 3 Rs, 4 RBIs) hit a solo home run, his 10th of the season. Chandler Jenkins also homered for his second in as many games.

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

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