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Pirates shockingly fall into losers' bracket

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East Carolina's Alec Burleson slides at second base during a game against Connecticut in Greenville during the regular season.

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The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The shocker on the first day of the American Athletic Conference baseball tournament was pulled off by the Shockers.

No. 8 seed Wichita State upset AAC regular season champion East Carolina, 6-2, on Tuesday afternoon in Clearwater, Fla., meaning the favored Pirates now need to win five games in five days to complement their regular season crown with an AAC tournament title.

ECU (42-14) was limited to five hits during the first eight innings and got a Jake Washer solo home run in the ninth. The team is projected as an NCAA regional host and wants to make a lengthy American tourney run to secure a top-eight national seed for the NCAA bracket to be announced in its entirety on Monday.

The Pirates dropped to the AAC losers’ bracket and are set to face No. 5 Houston on Wednesday at 3 p.m. The winner of that game will get Thursday off, and the loser is eliminated.

Wichita (27-29) scored the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth on a Ross Cadena RBI single. Four runs in the top of the ninth off Ryder Giles included a three-run home run by Brady Slavens to make it 6-1.

It was WSU starting pitcher Clayton McGinness who set the tone for the upset, continuing his late-season surge with one run yielded on five hits in 6.1 innings. Left-hander Alex Segal then delivered 1.2 hitless innings for the pitching victory.

“Clayton McGinness was the key to the game,” Wichita coach Todd Bulter said during his postgame interview on the American Digital Network. “He pitched against East Carolina two weeks ago and we won 3-1, and he had great success again today. ... The Shockers had a good day today.”

They became the first AAC team this year to record multiple wins over ECU. The Pirates, who are ranked No. 7 by Baseball America, posted a 20-4 league record in the regular season.

Alec Burleson, a semifinalist for the national John Olerud Award for two-way players, was ECU’s starting pitcher, and he went six innings with 100 pitches thrown and one run allowed on six hits with four walks and three strikeouts. The left-hander also finished 2-for-4 at the plate. Brady Lloyd was 3-for-4.

ECU loaded the bases with one out in the fifth inning, but all three runners were left stranded to keep it 1-1. Burleson led off the Pirate sixth with a single and Lloyd hit a leadoff single in the seventh, but it remained 1-1 after seven innings.

Wichita finished 3-for-16 hitting with runners in scoring position. ECU was 0-for-8.

McGinness also pitched a complete game against the Pirates at Wichita State on May 11. The senior righty threw 106 pitches on Tuesday after 110 pitches last Thursday versus South Florida.

He retired nine straight Pirates following Burleson’s RBI double off the wall in left field for a 1-0 Pirate lead in the bottom of the first.

Connecticut 4, Houston 3

Connecticut edged Houston in the first game in Clearwater.

The only hit by David Langer in the game was a two-out single up the middle in the bottom of the ninth inning, scoring pinch runner Thad Phillips from second base for the winning run.

No. 4 seed UConn (34-22) did not use its pitching ace, Mason Feole, and will likely start him in the second-round matchup against Wichita State.

Houston’s only lead was 3-2 after a run in the top of the seventh. The Cougars (32-23) used starter Lael Lockhart for six innings, and also closer Fred Villarreal for 1.2 frames.

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