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ECU welcoming Wolfpack, others to regional

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East Carolina's Bryant Packard, center, celebrates as ECU is announced during the NCAA Baseball selection show during a watch party at Sup Dogs on May 27, 2019. (Molly Urbina/The Daily Reflector)

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Monday, May 27, 2019

A North Carolina-heavy NCAA baseball regional will begin Friday in Greenville, highlighted by the intrigue of host East Carolina potentially playing rival N.C. State this weekend.

The NCAA has set up that possibility, announcing Monday that the Wolfpack is the No. 2 seed for the double-elimination Greenville Regional at Clark-LeClair Stadium that also will feature Campbell as the 3-seed and Quinnipiac as No. 4.

No. 10 overall seed ECU plays Quinnipiac (29-27), the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament champion with an RPI ranking of 177, on Friday at 6 p.m. Campbell (35-19) plays N.C. State (42-17) to begin the regional at noon.

The Pirates (43-15) facing Quinnipiac presents the opportunity for ECU to possibly save ace Jake Agnos to pitch against N.C. State or Campbell on Saturday. The Pirates’ weekend starting rotation, in order, for most of this season has been Agnos followed by fellow left-hander Jake Kuchmaner and then righty Tyler Smith.

“Yeah, we are going to look at matchups and going to see how we match up with our pitchers and everything,” ECU fifth-year coach Cliff Godwin said after Monday’s full NCAA bracket release. “We are going to put what is our best out there on Friday night, and we’ll go from there.”

Agnos also was asked about the possibility of a Saturday night matchup versus the Wolfpack, a rival ECU has not played this season and didn’t play last season because their matchup in Raleigh was canceled by inclement weather, compared to facing the Bobcats on Friday.

“I want the ball when coach Godwin tells me I want the ball, and that’s what I’ve learned since I’ve been here,” said Agnos, a junior and this year’s American Athletic Conference pitcher of the year with 131 strikeouts and a 2.00 ERA in 90.0 innings. “I don’t know what the pitching plan is, but I know we need a win on (Friday) night and that’s where our focus is. It’s up to them when I pitch.”

Campbell, the Big South tournament and regular season champion, also has a high-level MLB draft prospect in hard-throwing right-hander Seth Johnson.

East Carolina finished No. 5 in the RPI rankings, but its resume as a national top-eight seed candidate took a hit when the Pirates went 1-2 for an unexpected early exit at the American Athletic Conference tournament last week in Clearwater, Fla.

The 16 regional hosts were announced Sunday night. Among those 16, the top-eight announced Monday were No. 1 UCLA followed by Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, Georgia, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Louisville and Texas Tech.

The Greenville Regional winner is paired with the Louisville Regional winner for the NCAA super regional round. The eight super regional winners make up the College World Series field in Omaha, Neb., which begins June 15.

ECU held a selection show party Monday at Sup Dogs, bringing ECU team members and Pirate fans together to see what teams are coming to Greenville for the ECU regional.

“I did guess Campbell and N.C. State, but did not know Quinnipiac,” Pirate outfielder Bryant Packard said. “We’re really excited and obviously there’s a rivalry with N.C. State, but we have to focus on Quinnipiac right now.”

East Carolina is making its 30th NCAA tournament appearance, which is the most by any school that has never reached the College World Series. This is the first time that ECU has been picked as a regional host in consecutive years, following the 2018 Greenville Regional that was won by No. 2 seed South Carolina.

Quinnipiac tied with Canisius for the MAAC regular season championship. The Bobcats then won the MAAC tournament as the No. 2 seed, winning all three of their tourney games for a seven-game win streak heading into Friday’s matchup versus ECU.

“There is no hard regional and no easy regional and no easy team,” Godwin said. “Everybody is 0-0, and you have to go out there and play your best baseball. … I’m just worried about Game 1 and our guys playing to the best of their ability. We had a really good practice yesterday.

“Today we are off, but we’ll have a long and hard practice again tomorrow and then kind of back off on Wednesday.”

ECU can only host a super regional if Louisville does not win its regional. The Pirates have never hosted a super regional series in Greenville.

“It’s done and we can’t do anything about it now, but all we can do is focus on Quinnipiac and getting ready for the regional,” Packard said. “Maybe somebody can beat Louisville, and we do get to host.”

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

GREENVILLE REGIONAL SCHEDULE

Friday, May 31

Game 1: (3) Campbell vs. (2) N.C. State (Noon)

Game 2: (4) Quinnipiac vs. (1) East Carolina (6 p.m.)

Saturday, June 1

Game 3: Loser G1 vs. Loser G2 (11 a.m.)

Game 4: Winner G1 vs. Winner G2 (4 p.m.)

Sunday, June 2

Game 5: Winner G3 vs. Loser G4 (12 noon)

Game 6: Winner G4 vs. Winner G5 (6 p.m.) 

Monday, June 3

Game 7: Winner G6 vs. Loser G6 (1 p.m. - IF NECESSARY)

All games available to stream on ESPN3

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