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Pirates fall flat in Game 1

NCAA East Carolina Louisville Baseball
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East Carolina's Alec Burleson slides safely into second base for a double ahead of the tag from Louisville's Justin Lavey during the first inning in Game 1 of an NCAA college baseball super regional series Friday in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Friday, June 7, 2019

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The rain was steady during the most important half-inning at Jim Patterson Stadium on Friday, only adding to a dampening day for East Carolina baseball that has the Pirates back in elimination mode during the NCAA tournament.

After having its first 10 batters retired in order by Jake Agnos, Louisville rallied for four runs against Agnos during the bottom of the fourth inning and continued powerful swings from there against other Pirate pitchers for a 14-1 rout in Game 1 of the best-of-three super regional series against ECU.

The teams came in with matching 47-16 records, and it was a pitchers’ duel as expected through three and a half innings between national left-handed standouts Agnos and the Cardinals’ Reid Detmers. Agnos struck out all three Cardinals in the bottom of the first inning.

But Louisville’s four runs on five hits, including a three-run double hit into the right field corner with one out by Danny Oriente, sidetracked the course of the afternoon and gave Detmers (12-4) plenty of cushion for the victory.

It was the Pirates’ largest margin of defeat this season, five more runs than a 12-4 loss to Wright State on March 2.

“Once they got rolling, it was like a train and you couldn’t stop the locomotive,” Pirate coach Cliff Godwin said.

Godwin did not announce a starting pitcher for Game 2.

Zach Barnes, Ryder Giles and Garrett Saylor all pitched for the Pirates during the bottom of the fifth, when NCAA No. 7 overall seed Louisville added to its lead with five runs on six hits and an error for a 9-0 advantage.

Agnos tied for his shortest outing of the season, on opening day, going four innings with four runs allowed on five hits, five strikeouts and a walk.

Detmers took over as the national leader in strikeouts, upping his season total to 162 with six more. The sophomore power pitcher went seven frames and gave up one run — a Spencer Brickhouse home run in the sixth inning — on five hits with two walks.

“He was extremely good and the best pitcher we faced all year,” Godwin said. “He kept us off-balance, and once we got behind 7-0, it was just tough to score when the wind is blowing in and you’re facing one of the best pitchers in the country.”

No. 10 ECU lost the first game of the Greenville Regional last weekend at Clark-LeClair Stadium, followed by four straight wins to continue its season and advance to a super regional against the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season champion Cardinals. The Pirates will have to win consecutive games against Louisville to avoid elimination and make the College World Series for the first time in school history.

The Pirates wore black jerseys for all four of their regional wins. Louisville was in all black Friday, forcing visiting ECU to wear purple.

“Our backs are against the wall, just like last week,” Alec Burleson said. “We’ll have to come together and we know we have to fight. It’s not going to be easy, because they are a really good team and are one win way, so we just have to play tough.”

Brickhouse was standing on deck during the top of the third when Detmers prevented ECU from breaking a 0-0 tie and taking the lead. Bryant Packard hit a one-out single and Burleson was hit by a pitch with two outs before they both moved up a base on a wild pitch.

Detmers fell behind in the count, 3-0, to Jake Washer, but the ace battled back, and a high fastball on a 3-2 pitch fanned Washer and kept the game scoreless.

The Pirates left a total of three runners in scoring position during the first three innings.

Brickhouse finished 2-for-4. Louisville’s 18-hit assault included Tyler Fitzgerald finishing 4-for-5 with four runs scored. Jake Snider (2-for-4) and Oriente (2-for-3) each had three RBIs.

“It’s a super regional game against one of the best offenses in the country,” Agnos said. “You feel it, and it’s hard to stop a team that has the momentum. I could have done a better job of just making better pitches and taking a breath.”

Friday marked the Pirates’ first loss in an Agnos start since the same Wright State loss in March.

“Fortunately, in the second time through the lineup, we were able to get to him,” Louisville coach Dan McDonnell said. “I give credit to our hitters who are really good, and we’ve faced a lot of tough left-handed pitchers.”

East Carolina and Louisville both were in Conference USA from 2002 to ’05, including when the Pirates beat the Cardinals 4-1 on April 15, 2005, to open Jim Patterson Stadium. Louisville is 32-9 all time in NCAA postseason games at its all-turf home stadium located across the street from horse racing mecca of Churchill Downs.

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

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