ECU Baseball

A group of pitchers get ready to throw in the left field corner of Clark-LeClair Stadium during East Carolina baseball practice earlier this week.

FRIDAY

Alec Burleson, LHP

Burleson was named to a preseason stopper of the year watch list earlier this week — an award at the end of the season given to the nation’s top closer — but the versatile star will be East Carolina’s first pitcher of the year. Burleson also was ECU’s opening day starter last season and he went five innings with two runs allowed against Radford.

ECU has plenty of trust in Burleson, who made 17 starts during his first two collegiate seasons combined. Last year he finished with a 6-2 record, five saves and 3.28 ERA. Consistency was key during the left-hander’s first two years on the mound, posting a 3.33 ERA as a freshman and then 3.28 last season. He could remain in the weekend rotation after the return of Gavin Williams (finger injury), or Burleson could go to a more fluid role that he is used to at this point in his career.

SATURDAY

Tyler Smith, RHP

One of ECU’s four seniors is Smith, who comes into his final collegiate campaign already with 178.1 innings pitched. He also is the Pirates’ returning starter with the most weekend experience, which has its own value as ECU enters a new season with holes to fill in the bullpen and from last year’s batting lineup.

Smith’s sophomore season in 2018 ended with a 1.78 ERA in 60.2 innings and last year he finished with a 5.57 ERA, but his 74.1 innings for the season set a new career-high. Formerly a Sunday pitcher, the Pirates have thrived in Smith’s starts. He has a career 16-2 record.

SUNDAY

Jake Kuchmaner, LHP

Kuchmaner was named the American Athletic Conference preseason pitcher of the year, but he has been limited with some arm soreness. The left-hander, who threw the first perfect game in Pirate history a year ago at Maryland, will likely only last a few innings if he is used during opening weekend.

The lefty’s breakout season in 2019 ended with a 7-2 record, 14 starts and 2.99 ERA. He pitched 87.1 innings, which ranked second on the team, and delivered 73 strikeouts with 26 walks.

Bullpen

Matt Bridges, Garrett Saylor, Cam Colmore, C.J. Mayhue, Skylar Brooks, Nick Logusch, Evan Odum, Ryder Giles, Elijah Gill.

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