Even Cliff Godwin, who hasn’t exactly been champing at the bit to break down and talk up the nuances of the American Athletic Conference playing four-game baseball series this year, was aware Saturday evening the value of East Carolina starting 4-0 with a sweep of Cincinnati and the grit and some fortune it required.
When asked how rare sweeps in the American might be the rest of the season, the Pirates’ seventh-year coach and a former ECU player and two-time academic All-American said: “I don’t think it will be something that happens a ton. It’s just tough to beat a team three times, much less four times. As you can see, we won one game by one run (5-4 on Thursday) and we won another game by two runs (2-0 in the series finale), so it’s very competitive in our league.”
The Pirates beginning 4-0 certainly didn’t clinch anything, but it did add some pressure on them to continue to play well and even more pressure on the other league teams that already are in some version of catch-up mode.
Already at 0-4, Cincinnati should not be considered an AAC championship contender. The Bearcats also have four more games against ECU on their schedule for May 14-16.
Wichita State and Tulane are tied for second place after Wichita went 3-1 at Houston and Tulane 3-1 versus Memphis. South Florida and Central Florida split their series, 2-2.
ECU’s 4-0 mark combined with the Pirates’ 11-10, comeback win over North Carolina actually gave them a perfect 5-0 week. They moved up two spots to No. 9 in the D1Baseballl.com Top 25 on Monday.
The RPI rankings also reinforce that East Carolina is the odds-on favorite to win the AAC, which could end up being a one-bid league for an NCAA tournament that is planning for predetermined regional sites announced by the NCAA the week of May 10. The three American teams inside the top 100 in RPI are ECU (No. 10), Wichita State (60) and Tulane (98).
Cincy looked overmatched Friday, when ECU’s Gavin Williams dominated with career-highs in strikeouts (13) and innings pitched (6.2) to highlight a 7-0 win, and the Bearcats faded late in their 13-3, seven-inning mercy-rule defeat in the next game of the series. Williams on Monday was named AAC pitcher of the week and teammate Alec Makarewicz player of the week.
But the Bearcats also led in two of the four games at Clark-LeClair Stadium.
“College baseball games are tough to win, so 4-0 is extremely tough,” Pirate relief pitcher Cam Colmore said.
Colmore’s quote is telling because he is a good mouthpiece for the team. He is a sixth-year senior with seasoned perspective, far from a wide-eyed freshman.
East Carolina winning its first four league games was a strong statement and has ECU rightfully alone in first place. It also wouldn’t be shocking if there is not another 4-0 sweep by any other American teams the rest of the way.
Contact Ronnie Woodward at firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.