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Super regional is super tough again for ECU

NCAA Louisville East Carolina Baseball
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East Carolina players look on as Louisville players celebrate after defeating ECU to win an NCAA super regional at Jim Patterson Stadium on Saturday in Louisville, Ky.

APTOPIX NCAA Louisville East Carolina Baseball
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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, June 9, 2019

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The thousands of fans in red and the play on the field by Louisville at Jim Patterson Stadium during the NCAA super regional round trumped East Carolina and its hopes of finally breaking through and getting to Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series this year.

Instead Omaha will welcome Louisville back to college baseball’s biggest stage, while ECU and its contingent of fans who made the trip to Louisville are left proud of a historic season by the Pirates but a familiar feeling about ending a few wins shy of Omaha.

Louisville beat ECU 12-0 on Saturday afternoon to sweep the super regional in two games and end the Pirates’ season.

“I am going to reflect on how great of a season we had and these kids are hurting,” said Pirate fifth-year head coach Cliff Godwin, who is an ECU alum and played for the Pirates from 1998-2001 under coach Keith LeClair. “I am hurting and just want to be there for my guys.”

Louisville coach Dan McDonnell opened his postgame news conference with insight about ECU and the difficulty of super regional losses.

This was ECU’s 30th season in the NCAA tournament. East Carolina still has the most NCAA appearances without ever making the eight-team College World Series.

“I got to watch a lot of footage of them when they hosted their regional, and I told Cliff this week that, man, that place was rocking and you have it going on there,” said McDonnell, who is in his 13th season at Louisville with a 603-238 record. “ After this game I told him that I know how much it hurts. Unfortunately or fortunately, I’ve been there.

“What his fan base has to understand is that if you are going to live in the world of hosting regionals and being part of super regionals, you are going to have some really tough defeats,” McDonnell said. “No one is immune from that, and that is part of it.”

Attendance for the Cardinals’ 14-1 win on Friday for Game 1 was 2,955. On Saturday it was 4,458 watching as Atlantic Coast Conference powerhouse Louisville led 6-0 after three innings and left no doubt as the first team in the country to clinch a spot in Omaha.

Keeping with a college baseball tradition, Louisville’s players stormed out of their dugout after the final out and celebrated with a dogpile on the pitcher’s mound. The Cardinals are heading to the College World Series for the fifth time in their history, the fourth since 2012.

The Cardinals’ celebration was similar to what ECU experienced on the winning end after defeating Campbell twice on Monday to take the Greenville Regional championship at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

“It’s been the world to me, especially last weekend to go out at Clark-LeClair with a dogpile,” fifth-year senior pitcher Evan Voliva said. “That was awesome.”

ECU finished its season with 47 wins and 18 losses, its most wins since 2004.

Season highlights for the Pirates included pitcher Jake Kuchmaner throwing a perfect game at Maryland and ECU winning the Greenville Regional with four wins in two days. East Carolina also set a new American Athletic Conference record with 20 AAC wins during the regular season.

“We didn’t just win the (Greenville) Regional, but we dominated it and were back-to-back regional hosts,” Godwin said. “These kids have done so much for our program and for East Carolina University. They are unbelievable ambassadors.

“Jake Agnos is an All-American on the (pitcher’s) mound and he also is an academic All-American,” he said. “Alec Burleson is an All-American and he’s third-team academic All-American. I could not be happier with where our program is.”

Godwin brought senior representatives Voliva, Turner Brown and Sam Lanier, along with fourth-year junior catcher Jake Washer, to the postgame news conference for them to reflect on their careers.

“I thank Pirate Nation for sticking by our side, through the ups and the downs,” Brown said. “We love this place.”

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

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