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Pirates hosting regional, await seeding

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East Carolina baseball has been selected to host an NCAA regional at Clark-LeClair Stadium for the second straight year.

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, May 26, 2019

East Carolina will host an NCAA baseball regional for the fifth time in its history and the third time in Greenville.

The Pirates, who dominated the American Athletic Conference for their first-ever AAC regular season championship, were announced Sunday night as one of 16 regional hosts for the NCAA tournament, which will begin Friday.

ECU also hosted at Clark-LeClair Stadium last year, and this selection marks the first time in school history the Pirates host in consecutive years.

But plenty of intrigue still remains on what seed ECU (43-15) will be among the 16 hosts. 

The top eight national seeds, which will be announced Monday at noon on ESPNU as part of the entire NCAA bracket selection show, are guaranteed to also host during the super regional round if they win their regional.

UCLA, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Georgia and Arkansas are widely viewed as the likely top-five seeds. That leaves a group including ECU, Stanford, Louisville, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Georgia Tech vying for the valuable 6-8 spots.

“I think picking the final three national seeds is the hardest situation for the (NCAA selection) committee to handle,” ESPN college baseball analyst Mike Rooney said during a phone interview Saturday night. “I haven’t seen it this tight in a while. The committee has a really tough time with this one.”

The Pirates’ RPI ranking is No. 5 and their 20-4 AAC record marked the most single-season American wins by a team in the league’s six-year history. Vanderbilt is No. 1 in the RPI and followed by UCLA, Georgia, Mississippi State, East Carolina, Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Georgia Tech, Louisville and Stanford.

ECU doesn't have as many wins against Top 25 opponents as some other regional hosts and the Pirates went 1-2 at the AAC tournament in Clearwater, Fla., losing to Wichita State twice, and will go into their regional with a 1-3 record in their last four games.

“What ECU did at its conference tournament is not necessarily a deal-breaker,” Rooney said. “It’s just super difficult to separate some of these teams. It is razor thin, and it’s hard to compare because their resumes can be so different.”

ECU will hold a selection show watch party for fans at Sup Dogs beginning at 11 a.m. The selection show televised on ESPNU begins at noon.

The NCAA announced the 16 regional host teams, in alphabetical order based on their home city — Georgia, Georgia Tech, LSU, North Carolina, Oregon State, Arkansas, East Carolina, UCLA, Louisville, Texas Tech, West Virginia, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Oklahoma State, Mississippi State and Stanford.

Texas Tech won the Big 12 regular season and made the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament, which crowned Oklahoma State as champion Sunday after a 5-2 victory over West Virginia.

Louisville, the team with the best Atlantic Coast Conference regular season record, went 0-2 at the ACC tourney in Durham. North Carolina beat Georgia Tech, 10-2, in the ACC championship game.

N.C. State not being picked as a regional host could make the Wolfpack the lead candidate to be the No. 2 seed for the Greenville Regional. Other teams nearby that won their conference tournaments and are options to come to Greenville are Liberty (Atlantic Sun), UNC Wilmington (Colonial Athletic Association), Campbell (Big South) and Coastal Carolina (Sun Belt).

The 2018 Greenville Regional featured the Pirates joined by No. 2 seed South Carolina, the eventual regional winner, and also No. 3 Ohio State and 4-seed UNCW.

The regional brought an estimated $1.2 million into the local economy, said Andrew Schmidt, executive director of the Greenville-Pitt County Convention & Visitors Bureau, and he added that reflects a recirculation rate of about 1.5 percent.

ECU went 1-2 at the Conference USA tournament in 2004 and ’09, but also won regionals both of those years. 

The Pirates hosted a regional at Clark-LeClair Stadium in 2009, in Kinston in 2004 and Wilson in 2001. ECU has never hosted a super regional in Greenville.

This will be ECU’s 30th NCAA tournament appearance.

ECU’s release Sunday night said that Greenville Regional ticket sales will open to the general public beginning Wednesday at 9 a.m.

All-session ticket books are available for $90, $72 and $60, depending on seat location. Single-game tickets, ranging from $10-15, will go on sale Friday at 11 a.m.

The ECU athletics ticket office is closed Monday because of Memorial Day. Tickets can be purchased in-person or telephone by calling 800-DIAL-ECU or 252-737-4500 from Tuesday through Thursday.

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

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