ECU baseball prepares for inaugural AAC season

Published 1:52 pm Thursday, March 26, 2015

GREENVILLE — As East Carolina baseball prepares to see its first American Athletic Conference action this weekend against Memphis, the Pirates face a barrage of challenges, including series’ against two top-25 teams and a cast of unfamiliar opponents.



Gone are the days of Conference USA where ECU spent 12 seasons, claiming the conference crown in 2004 and 2009. Annual rivalry games with perennially top ranked Rice are a thing of the past, but the new conference provides a few challenges of its own.

New opponents in Cincinnati, Connecticut and South Florida will all pose obstacles for the Pirates, considering ECU is unfamiliar with those teams on the diamond. It goes both ways, however, as all of those teams will be unacquainted with the Pirates as well.

Joining the Pirates from the now-dissolved C-USA are AAC members Houston, Memphis, Central Florida and Tulane.

Houston, Memphis and Central Florida all have one season of AAC action under their belts, while Tulane serves as the only other school making its inaugural jump into the new conference.



UCF, ranked sixth in the nation according to Baseball America, is off to a torrid start to the season, sitting with a conference-best 20-6 record. With wins against Southeastern Conference teams Ole Miss and Florida, the Knights have a formidable lineup that leads the AAC in virtually every offensive category.

ECU’s offense has been its biggest weapon this season and yet the Pirates sit in a distant second place in the conference with a .305 average through 25 games.

The Knights have played in 26 games and have a team average of .330. UCF also has 33 more hits and 82 more RBI than the Pirates.

Perhaps serving as their most impressive stat, the Knights claim a whopping 38-team home runs this season — more than UConn, South Florida and Memphis combined.

When the Pirates host the Knights at the end of April, two of the conference’s most potent offenses will be on display.



With all eight teams slated to open up conference play this weekend, only one team, lowly Cincinnati, owns a losing record. This concept seems likely to change, however, as the AAC boasts two nationally ranked teams — No. 6 UCF and No. 17 Houston.

Tulane, which currently holds a 17-8 record, has benefited from an underwhelming schedule. In their only game against a ranked opponent, the Green Wave was blasted by top-ranked Louisiana State.

The same can be said about the Memphis Tigers. They open conference play against the Pirates this weekend and hold the second lowest ERA in the American. However, the Tigers have only notched six home runs this season and in a power-heavy conference a lack of the long ball could be a difference maker.

Every team outside of Cincinnati has seen recent action in the NCAA tournament. ECU’s battle will be an uphill one with tradition and standings standing in its way.



While the Pirates and their offense-savvy head coach are on track for a historic season at the plate, ECU is still in the middle of a power grab along with some of the conference’s best teams.

UCF has more home runs than second place Tulane, which has an impressive 19 team home runs. From there, ECU has 17 this season, while Memphis is the only team with fewer than 15.

The logjam in the middle of the rankings only makes the American that much more of an interesting story.

ECU’s Luke Lowery is tied for second in the country with eight home runs, while Cincinnati’s Ian Happ and UCF’s Dylan Moore both have seven.

The Pirates will clearly need to notch home runs to keep up with the conference leaders because of their shallow pitching pool.

The Pirates have cooled down since dominating Elon and it couldn’t have come at a worse time as a matchup with one of the AAC’s most impressive pitching team, Memphis, looms this weekend.