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Pirates set new AAC wins record

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East Carolina's Brady Lloyd is lifted up by teammates after scoring against Memphis on May 16, 2019. (Molly Urbina/The Daily Reflector)

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Friday, May 17, 2019

East Carolina spent the last few months proving its worth as the best baseball team in the American Athletic Conference.

On Friday night, seventh-ranked ECU succeeded in its chance to put another historical stamp on its campaign.

The Pirates defeated Memphis, 5-3, at Clark-LeClair Stadium, giving them a 20-3 league record for the most AAC wins ever in a single season. Louisville finished 19-5 in the American’s inaugural season in 2014.

“The thing about this team is it has been really consistent, playing pitching duels and offensive duels and done it all,” said Pirate coach Cliff Godwin, whose club also clinched the Memphis series to become the first team to win all eight AAC series in a season. “We’ve found ways to win in different ways. To be honest I was a little disappointed and thought we played a little flat tonight after the first inning.

“I’m sure some guys are tired, but we need to come out with a lot of juice and energy tomorrow, because every game matters. I want to see guys flying around the field.”

ECU (42-12 overall) will close the regular season against the Tigers (26-26, 9-13) at 1 p.m. The Pirates will be going for their eighth weekend sweep.

Friday was senior night and the Pirates honored their graduates of this academic year along with the senior class consisting of Turner Brown, Brady Lloyd, Sam Lanier, Zach Barnes, Chandler Jenkins and Evan Voliva.

Jake Kuchmaner (6-1) threw 110 pitches and went 7.1 innings. He yielded three runs, two earned, with seven strikeouts before giving way to Voliva for a crucial sequence in the top of the eighth when Voliva struck out two of three batters to keep the Pirates up 4-3. Thomas Francisco’s RBI single in the bottom of the eighth made it 5-3.

“You want to win for (the seniors) and everything they have done for us, so you do put in a little extra,” Kuchmaner said. “Probably the third or fourth inning, (pitching) coach (Dan) Roszel came up to me and told me that I looked a little slower and start picking up the pace and challenging them a little more.”

Alec Burleson relieved Ryder Giles and got the final three outs in the ninth for his fifth save.

Godwin confirmed that outfielder Lane Hoover, who had thrived hitting in the No. 2 spot in the team’s batting order, is out a few weeks after crashing to the ground on a diving catch during Tuesday’s game against Campbell. Dusty Baker started in center field and was 1-for-3 with a run scored as the No. 2 hitter.

Francisco, a freshman like Hoover, has stepped up as the designated hitter against Memphis, including Friday when he went 3-for-4.

“(Hoover) is going to be out for two weeks and then he’ll be able to start doing stuff, so hopefully we’re still playing in two weeks and he can get into games in some capacity,” Godwin said.

Memphis slugger Hunter Goodman, who struck out four times in Thursday’s series opener and was fanned by Voliva to end the UM eighth on Friday, hit his 12th home run of the season for his 63rd RBI and a 2-2 tie in the top of the fourth.

The Pirates took the lead for good in the bottom of the frame. Brown led off and reached on an error, followed by a Francisco single and Lloyd’s RBI single up the middle for a 3-2 edge. Francisco later scored on Giles’ groundout to make it 4-2.

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

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