Stepping Up: ECU limps into Charlottesville Regional

Published 3:51 pm Monday, May 30, 2016

The East Carolina baseball team will make its second consecutive trip to an NCAA regional as the 64-team field was announced Monday afternoon.

The Pirates were selected to the Charlottesville Regional, hosted by Virginia. Along with ECU and the host team, Bryant and William and Mary will also appear in the region.

ECU is the No. 3 seed and will face No. 2 seed Bryant Friday at 6 p.m. The Bulldogs won the Northeast Conference Tournament with three consecutive wins over Central Connecticut, Sacred Heart and Fairleigh Dickinson.

Bryant has become a force in the NEC and has won three of the last four conference tournament titles.

The Pirates are limping into the regional after taking just two games in the conference tournament to be eliminated. Evan Kruczynski turned in a strong outing in game one of the tournament and will likely start Friday against Bryant.

In the double elimination format, the Pirates will play either Virginia or William and Mary in the second game. Virginia is the defending national champion, though the Pirates should have confidence against the Cavaliers after taking two-of-three from them in the regular season.

William and Mary were the unlikely champions out of the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament. The Tribe posted 14 runs on UNC Wilmington in the championship game.

The Pirates are still facing the same uphill battle they have all season. Jimmy Boyd allowed five runs in less than three innings pitched in his conference tournament appearance. Jacob Wolfe may also be an option to pitch in game two as a starter. Beyond Boyd and Wolfe, the pitching decisions may get difficult for ECU head coach Cliff Godwin.

Nick Durazo is no longer with the program. Matt Bridges and Joe Ingle both had poor bullpen outings during the conference tournament. Sam Lanier may see an opportunity out of the bullpen. The thin pitching staff has been the bane of ECU’s season to this point and that problem only becomes more magnified in the tightly scheduled postseason.

The Pirates could play five games in four days if they drop a game and can still reach the final. For any pitching staff, that schedule is difficult to handle. The Pirates’ strong starting pitching will be the most critical aspect of the regional.

If each of the three starters can work into seventh and eighth innings and keep the bullpen fresh, ECU’s chances will rise considerably. Luckily, the pitching staff has had a full week of rest. Kruczynski last threw in a game on Wednesday while Boyd pitched Thursday. Jacob Wolfe hasn’t pitched a live game since the season finale May 21.

Last year, the Pirates were promptly eliminated from the Coral Gables Regional in two games. All but two positional starters made an appearance in that regional (freshmen Turner Brown and Dwanya Williams-Sutton).