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New setting means new challenges for Pirates

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Fans wave goodbye to East Carolina players as they leave Clark-LeClair Stadium and begin their travel to Louisville on Wednesday.

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Friday, June 7, 2019

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — There were plenty of times last weekend when East Carolina’s baseball players had 5,000 fans cheering for them at Clark-LeClair Stadium and helping them navigate and force their way to an NCAA Greenville Regional championship.

It will be different this weekend, possibly with more than 5,000 red-clad Louisville fans rooting and working against the Pirates at Jim Patterson Stadium.

“We know it’s going to be hostile and we’ll have to throw our best punches and respond to their best punches,” said ECU sophomore left-hander Alec Burleson, who leads the Pirates with a .373 batting average and also boasts a 6-1 mark on the pitcher’s mound with a 2.93 ERA. “It’s going to be fun to be in that atmosphere and playing in a super regional. Two games and we’re going to Omaha.”

Louisville’s best crowd during its regional weekend was an attendance of 3,092 against Illinois State on Friday night. The stadium record is 6,237 fans during a 2017 super regional versus in-state rival Kentucky.

This super regional series between ECU and the Cardinals begins today at noon. The game will be televised on ESPN2, followed by a 3 p.m. Saturday (ESPNU) matchup and noon again on Sunday on ESPN2.

Either the Pirates or Louisville, who have matching 47-16 records, will win twice and advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.

East Carolina has been to five super regionals but never won a super regional series and also never hosted in Greenville.

ECU hosted in 2001 in Kinston, when current Pirate coach Cliff Godwin was an ECU catcher, and lost twice to Tennessee. East Carolina’s other super regional series were at South Carolina (2004), North Carolina (2009) and Texas Tech (2016), all having its season end as the opponent celebrated a trip to Omaha.

“We practiced a lot on communication today and I think we communicate a lot on the field, so this isn’t something that we haven’t been through before,” Pirate outfielder Bryant Packard said. “We’ve been to Ole Miss and some of the loudest places in the country.”

ECU won Game 1 against Texas Tech in Lubbock, but it dropped the final two contests as the Red Raiders advanced to Omaha for the CWS.

Louisville has become accustomed in recent years to hosting super regionals at Jim Patterson Stadium. Since 2013, the Cardinals have hosted a super regional in five out of six seasons.

“For the older guys who went to Texas Tech, we can tell some of the others that this is how it is going to be and this is what you can expect,” ECU senior shortstop Turner Brown said. “It will be a lot different (from the regional), so we’ll have to supply our own energy.”

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

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