East Carolina seeks a long-awaited breakthrough with a first trip to the College World Series. Texas Tech wants to get back two years after its maiden voyage to Omaha.
The Pirates (37-21-1) lost both games in the American Athletic Conference Tournament, then turned right around and won three straight at a regional that included defending national champion Virginia.
The best-of-3 super regional at the home of the Red Raiders starts Friday. It will be ECU’s fourth appearance in 18 years since the current format was adopted 18 years ago. The Pirates have the most NCAA regional appearances (28) without a trip to the eight-team finals.
“We can’t expect to go to Omaha every year because East Carolina has never been to Omaha, but we expect to be in a regional every year,” coach Cliff Godwin said. “I think that weighed on the guys because we had such a tough schedule. We never got the momentum going. But it prepared us.”
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Texas Tech (44-17), the No. 5 national seed, hosted the super regional two years ago, beating College of Charleston 1-0 twice. It was the first time a team won a super regional with a pair of 1-0 victories.
The Red Raiders beat Dallas Baptist in a winner-take-all rematch for the Lubbock Regional crown after the Patriots stayed alive with a win. Orlando Garcia’s tiebreaking two-run double in the sixth inning was the key hit in a 5-3 win. Texas Tech has sold out six straight NCAA Tournament games at home, and won five of them. The super regional is sold out as well.
Things to watch going into the first baseball meeting between the schools:
Travis Watkins handed Virginia its first loss in the regional with a three-run homer that capped East Carolina’s five-run ninth inning in an 8-6 win. If was one of four homers in three games at the regional after the Pirates hit 27 in 56 games before that. They hit .370 in the regional, third in the 64-team NCAA field.
Texas Tech right-hander Davis Martin, expected to start the opener, has been among the top freshmen in the country, going 9-0 with a 2.31 ERA.
“He pitched really well in high school and in summer ball, but it doesn’t always work out that way once you get (to college),” coach Tim Tadlock said. “You don’t always get your feet on the ground as fast as he has.”
LEADING THE SHIP
The probable Game 1 starter for the Pirates is left-hander Evan Kruczynski, who is 7-1 with a 1.86 ERA. He pitched seven shutout innings in a 9-1 win over Bryant in East Carolina’s opener in the Charlottesville Regional.
Tech’s Orlando Garcia had his 11th multi-hit game of the season at home in the clincher against Dallas Baptist. He has a .308 batting average at home compared to .254 overall and has five of his six homers and 20 of his 26 RBIs at home.
ODDS & ENDS
Texas Tech is one of 13 schools nationally and three in the Big 12 (TCU, Oklahoma State) to advance to a super regional twice over the past three seasons. … East Carolina is the first current American Athletic member to face the Red Raiders in the NCAA Tournament. The Red Raiders beat Temple 14-3 in 2001, but the Owls have since dropped baseball.