Another opportunity to fulfill its lifelong quest to reach the College World Series awaits East Carolina beginning Friday.
Playing in their 30th NCAA baseball tournament and fifth super regional, the Pirates need to win two of three games in the Louisville Super Regional against the host Cardinals for make the College World Series for the first time.
Seeded No. 10 nationally, ECU (47-16) won last weekend’s Greenville Regional on its home field under difficult circumstances. The Pirates were upset by the regional’s No. 4 seed, Quinnipiac, before winning four consecutive elimination games to advance.
Two wins over Campbell, by scores of 10-3 and 12-3 last Monday, gave the Pirates the regional championship and sent them to the super regional for the second time in four seasons.
Back in 2016, East Carolina played at Texas Tech with the winner advancing to Omaha. After winning the first game of the series, the Pirates were the home team in game 2. In extra innings, ECU stranded runners at third in the 11th and 12th innings when scoring a run would have sent them to the College World Series. Texas Tech eventually won 3-1 in 13 innings before winning the deciding Game 3 to advance and leave the Pirates short once again.
ECU must win at No. 7 national seed Louisville (47-16) to advance this year.
Game times are Friday at noon on ESPN2, Saturday at 3 p.m. on ESPNU and, if necessary, a third and deciding game will be played Sunday at noon on ESPN2.
“We’re going to prepare like we have all year,” ECU redshirt junior catcher Jake Washer said. “Obviously, going to a super regional is one step and we’re just going to do what we did this week, all season. We’re going to harp on just taking it one step at a time, preparing, not doing anything stupid and staying in the present moment.”
Here are three things to know about this matchup:
Cards missing their closer
Louisville will be without junior relief pitcher Michael McAvene for the first two games against ECU this weekend after he was ejected from a game last Sunday.
Pitching against Indiana in an elimination game during the Louisville Regional, McAvene yelled “that’s horrible” after an umpire’s ball-strike call. He was ejected for his outburst, an action that carries an automatic four-game suspension under NCAA rules.
Without him, the Cardinals beat Illinois State in back-to-back elimination games Sunday and Monday to claim the regional title.
McAvene, a second-team all-ACC pick, leads Louisville with seven saves. He is 2-0 with a 2.67 earned run average and an impressive 0.83 walks and hits per inning ratio.
ECU offense humming
After losing 5-4 to Quinnipiac, the Pirates outscored their four opponents 44-11 to come out of the loser’s bracket and win the Greenville Regional. The Pirates collected 53 hits over those for games.
Washer, named the regional most outstanding player, bashed four home runs during the five regional games. The Pirates’ clean-up hitter has 17 home runs this season with a .310 batting average.
Junior Spencer Brickhouse, ECU’s first baseman who bats one slot behind Washer, slammed his 13th home run in last Monday’s regional-clinching win over Campbell. He’s hitting .335 overall.
Junior lead-off batter Bryant Packard is batting .363 with a .448 on-base percentage.
Sophomore Alec Burleson carries a team-best .373 batting average with 22 doubles and nine home runs.
Aces all around
Louisville has the ACC pitcher of the year, Reid Detmers, ready to go against ECU. A sophomore left-hander, Detmers is 11-4 with a 2.76 ERA. He’s struck out 156 batters in 100 ⅓ innings.
The Cardinals’ other starting pitchers are junior left-hander Nick Bennett (7-3, 4.40 ERA) and sophomore right-hander Bobby Miller (6-1, 4.37 ERA).
ECU has its own ace in junior left-hander Jake Agnos, who is 11-2 with a 2.02 ERA. Having made 14 starts in 17 appearances, sophomore left-hander Jake Kuchmaner is 7-2 with a 2.99 ERA.
When not playing the outfield, Burleson started eight games among his 23 pitching appearances. He’s 6-1 with a 2.93 ERA.