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New Pirates following Burleson

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East Carolina pitcher Alec Burleson celebrates a strikeout against Quinnipiac during the NCAA Greenville Regional on June 1, 2019. (Molly Urbina/The Daily Reflector)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, October 10, 2019

It used to be only Alec Burleson roaming from station to station at East Carolina baseball practices as a pitcher, outfielder, first baseman and standout hitter.

Burleson is focusing on defense, hitting and leadership this fall, resting his pitching arm after throwing 60.1 innings for ECU last season and then playing summer ball for the USA Collegiate National Team, but some of the Pirates' newcomers have followed his lead working as pitchers and position players.

Freshman Zach Agnos, a brother of former Pirate ace Jake Agnos, is playing shortstop and pitching. Following Burleson as a left-handed first baseman/pitcher is another rookie who has impressed in Carson Whisenhunt, who is 6-foot-3 and was an all-state selection at Davie County High School.

"He, to this point, has really opened a lot of eyes because he has swung the bat extremely well and Burly has kind of taken him under his wing and worked with him over at first base and talked to him about handling the two-way thing," Pirate coach Cliff Godwin said. "You are talking about a big lefty who can throw the ball 88 to 92 miles per hour, downhill, with run on the fastball and a good changeup and good slider. He has to continue to develop and I'm always very leery of saying freshmen are doing too good at this time of the year because they have to keep working.

"(Burleson) provides knowledge to a Carson Whisenhunt and (freshman) Skylar Brooks, whenever that comes, and Ryder Giles provides knowledge to a guy like Zach Agnos because Ryder has done what Zach wants to do."

Giles was the Pirates' starting third baseman and a key relief pitcher a year ago as a freshman. He shifted to shortstop before rolling his ankle to keep him out of fall scrimmages to this point, and ECU also has dealt with fall injuries to infielders Brooks and Nick Barber.

Godwin said returnee Thomas Francisco has looked more athletic playing third base, and that Agnos has stepped up at shortstop.

"He has been awesome at shortstop and I definitely think he could play shortstop if we needed him to," Godwin said. "He is similar (to Jake), but different. I think it's because Jake was here for three years, Zach is more comfortable than Jake was probably as a freshman. He kind of knows what to expect, and he's managing the two-way thing as a shortstop."

ECU will play two fall exhibition games, the first Sunday at Virginia.

"We are going to try to win and it doesn't count on our real schedule ... but it does (help) and we're going to put some guys out there who maybe have not been in that experience before," Godwin said. "We won't pitch Tyler Smith or Jake Kuchmaner because we know those guys can toe the line when we need them to. Some junior college guys and some freshmen will get out there."

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

Player of the month

After an 8-0 start in singles to his sophomore season, East Carolina's Diogo Marques was named the American Athletic Conference men's tennis player of the month on Tuesday. He is the first Pirate to earn AAC player of the month since East Carolina joined the league in 2014.

“This is well deserved for Diogo,” coach Shawn Heinchon said in a release. “He has put a lot of hard work in both on and off the court not only since he’s been back, but also over the summer. It’s great to see all that paying off for him.”

The Setubal, Portugal, native won his first collegiate trophy when he finished first his draw in mid-September at the Liberty Invitational.

High jump worlds

Tynita Butts took eighth place in the high jump event at the Doha IAAF World Athletics Championships.

Butts is a former East Carolina standout who as a senior in 2014 won the Conference USA outdoor field athlete of the year award and earned second place at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. She was second among all U.S. competitors in Doha, Qatar, with a personal-best mark of 1.93 meters.

Weekly awards

The East Carolina men’s swimming and diving team swept the initial American Athletic Conference weekly awards for this year as sophomore swimmer Lyubomir Epitropov and freshman diver Roy Romero were named AAC swimmer and diver of the week.

Epitropov, a native of Bulgaria, collected a pair of wins in the Pirates’ dual meet against North Carolina last Saturday, taking first place in the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke. He won in 200 by a comfortable margin of 2.37 seconds with a mark of 1:59.78.

Romero claimed first place on the 1-meter diving board with a score of 323.48, which was 30.53 points ahead of UNC runner-up Andrew Owsiany.

Doubles tennis

East Carolina's doubles team of Alisa Diercksen and Lisa Hofbauer went 0-2 at the ITA All-American Championships in Tulsa, Okla.

The ECU pair was in the qualifying draw, needing three wins to make the main draw, and it began with a hard-fought, 8-6 loss to Boise State’s Joana Baptista and Lilian Poling. Another loss eliminated Diercksen and Hofbauer.

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