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Opponent Preview: East Carolina

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Meet the Pirates... They’re what you would consider to be a very good baseball team

East Carolina v Virginia Tech Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images

Who’s the Pack playing?

Opponent: East Carolina

Mascot: Pirates | School Location: Greenville, NC | Conference: American

2018 Record: 30-9 (8-4, 2nd AAC) | 2018 RPI Rank: 11

2017 Record: 32-28 (7-17, 8th AAC) | 2017 RPI Rank: 81

2016 Record: 38-23-1 (15-8-1, 2nd AAC) | 2016 RPI Rank: 27


When? Where? How do I watch?

Location: Doak Field at Dail Park, Raleigh, NC

Game Time(s): Tuesday, Apr 24 @ 6:00pm

TV: ACC Network Extra

Radio: WKNC 88.1 in Raleigh

Live Stats: Sidearm Sports Stats


Tell me about this team

The 2018 East Carolina Baseball team is what most expected the 2017 East Carolina Baseball team to be: a legitimate College World Series contender. The 2017 Pirates were a senior-laden team coming off a Super Regional appearance the previous year that ran into an unfortunate mix of injuries, close losses, and a better-than-normal American Athletic Conference schedule. Still, that team almost found a way into the NCAA Tournament, losing in the AAC Tournament Championship Game.

This year’s Pirate team is made of younger talent (there are only four seniors on the entire team) playing up to potential. Just as NC State has seen this year, when a talented team starts clicking, things get really fun really fast. East Carolina isn’t nearly the offensive juggernaut that NC State is, but they are a well-coached offensive team that does a great job of adjusting their game plan to counter the opposing pitcher and then sticking to it through execution. They’re not going to mash a ton of home runs, but they will work pitchers and take what is given to them, even if it means poking singles all game long and playing base-to-base. As a team, ECU is slashing .289/.368/.420 with right at a 3:5 BB:K ratio and 46 SB (in 61 SBA) in 39 games.

On the mound, a lot of comparisons could be made between the two pitching staffs. An experienced ace leading the starting rotation with a bit of uncertainty behind him, a highly talented freshman pitcher making his first weekend start this past weekend, a senior closer, and some very impressive bullpen arms. The staff together has a 3.12 ERA while holding opponents to a .249/.318/.339 slash line.

Most of the time I don’t call out a team’s defensive performance, but ECU deserves some recognition here as the team sports a .983 fielding percentage. On top of that, opponents are just 17-of-31 on stolen bases against the Pirates.

Key Players:

Offense

OF Bryant Packard (SO) - .400 BA, .448 OBP, .712 SLG, 125 AB, 9 2B, 0 3B, 10 HR, 30 R, 35 RBI, 9 BB, 26 K, 2-3 SB. Packard is having a sensational sophomore year. The lefty hitter has been steady all year and is currently riding a 17-game hitting streak. Not often overpowered and willing to take what the pitcher gives him, he’s a tough out. The one hole in his game is his low walk rate.

OF Dwanya Williams-Sutton (JR) - .393 BA, .514 OBP, .536 SLG, 56 AB, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 16 R, 7 RBI, 11 BB, 13 K, 10-11 SB. Williams-Sutton, a 26th round draft pick out of high school and 2016 Freshman All-American, has the most raw MLB-level talent of anyone on the team; a five-tool player. If he could stay healthy, he’d easily be a top 3 round draft pick, with the abilities to be a first rounder. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to maintain health over his three years in Greenville (he’s only played in 18 of 39 games this year) and that’s going to hurt his stock. He does have a five game hitting streak going, four of which have been multi-hit games.

C Jake Washer (RS-SO) - .345 BA, .447 OBP, .552 SLG, 116 AB, 7 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 22 R, 32 RBI, 20 BB, 25 K, 0-1 SB. The Johnny Bench Award Watch List member, Washer is breaking out this year during his chance to shine. In addition to his offensive prowess, he’s gunned down 11-of-25 would-be base stealers. Had a 13-game hitting streak snapped this past weekend in Memphis.

2B Brady Lloyd (JR) - .372 BA, .431 OBP, .457 SLG, 129 AB, 8 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 32 R, 14 RBI, 9 BB, 22 K, 9-10 SB. A mostly defensive reserve utility player over his first two years in Greenville, Lloyd is shining now that he’s getting his opportunity.

3B Connor Litton (JR) - .293 BA, .387 OBP, .467 SLG, 150 AB, 5 2B, 0 3B, 7 HR, 26 R, 22 RBI, 21 BB, 34 K, 5-8 SB. The JUCO transfer has cooled off lately, hitting just .143 over his last 11 games. Still, Litton has put together a very good year and has likely played his way into a mid-round MLB Draft selection come June.

DH/1B/OF Spencer Brickhouse (SO) - .273 BA, .347 OBP, .400 SLG, 150 AB, 7 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 26 R, 26 RBI, 19 BB, 21 K, 1-1 SB. Brickhouse is just a purely natural hitter, with the ability to hit for power and average. The Freshman All-American a year ago is better than his numbers indicate and can make a team pay in a hurry with a lazy or poorly placed pitch.

Pitching

LHP Jake Agnos (SO) - 4-2, 3.19 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, .227 OBA, 36.2 IP, 29 H, 16 R, 13 ER, 25 BB, 42 K. Although the official pregame listing has a big ol’ “TBA” listed as the starting pitcher, Agnos will most likely get the starting nod for the Pirates as he has started midweek tilts each of the last three weeks in wins over UNC-W, Elon, and Duke. Agnos started the year in the weekend rotation but struggled in the early season before finding success in the bullpen and later in the midweek starter role. The lefty will be a tough match-up for State’s LHH dominant lineup.

RHP Trey Benton (SO) - 4-5, 4.44 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, .296 OBA, 46.2 IP, 55 H, 26 R, 23 ER, 4 BB, 47 K. Another sophomore who started the year in the Pirates weekend rotation but has since dropped out, Benton could be another option to start this game (although more unlikely given Agnos’s recent success and lefty match-up potential). Oddly enough, Benton has an MLB-level arm, electric stuff and a fastball with plus velo, but he’s a story of a pitcher to this point in his career who almost throws too many strikes, leaving pitches too often in positions to be far too hitable.

LHP Ryan Ross (SR) - 0-1, 5 SV, 1.62 ERA, 0.69 WHIP, .167 OBA, 33.1 IP, 19 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 32 K. One of just three seniors getting significant playing time, Ross is a former Appalachian State transfer who spent one year at JUCO between life in Boone and Greenville. The lefty is the team’s closer and one of the top bullpen arms turned to for high-leverage situations.

RHP Davis Kirkpatrick (RS-SR) - 2-0, 1 SV, 1.27 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, .241 OBA, 21.1 IP, 19 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 8 BB, 20 K. Kirkpatrick has always been a solid pitcher during his time at ECU, but never seemed to really hit his potential, much of which could be attributed to having missed his true sophomore year with Tommy John Surgery. This year, though, Kirkpatrick has been extremely good when called on out of the bullpen.

RHP Gavin Williams (FR) - 0-0, 0 SV, 1.59 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, .184 OBA, 11.1 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 8 K. The 30th round MLB Draft selection a year ago by Tampa Bay is a 6’6 flame thrower who can pump it in the triple digits. Williams can (and has) run it up to 100 mph this year. Yeah, you’re going to want to see this guy pitch. He did miss a month of the season due to a forearm strain, but he’s rounding back into form now.

LHP Alec Burleson (FR) - 2-0, 4 SV, 1.90 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, .247 OBA, 23.2 IP, 23 H, 11 R, 5 ER, 7 BB, 25 K. The two-way player (also plays some as DH and at 1B) has been a stud on the mound this year. He was moved to the weekend rotation this past weekend at Memphis (4.1 IP in the win Saturday), so it’s unlikely that he appears in this one. Was a key late-inning bullpen arm before moving to the starting rotation.

RHP Chris Holba (JR) - 9-0, 1.48 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, .246 OBA, 60.2 IP, 56 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 12 BB, 50 K. Holba is the team’s ace and Friday night starter, so he won’t be seen in this game, but anyone who is 9-0 in 10 starts with a 1.48 ERA deserves a call out.


Quick! Fun Facts!

NC State holds the edge in the all-time series between the two programs with 71 wins to ECU’s 43.

NC State 3B Dillon Cooper was originally committed to East Carolina under former Pirates skipper Billy Godwin. After the coaching change that brought Cliff Godwin (no relation to Billy) to Greenville, Cooper reopened his recruitment and subsequently committed to the Wolfpack.

As you might expect, there are a good number of common opponents between the two programs. The Wolfpack and Pirates have each played Campbell, Charlotte, Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, and UNC-Wilmington. NC State is 7-1 against those teams while East Carolina is 8-1.

Out of 35 players on the roster, nine have a last name starting with the letter ‘B’. I don’t know, that might not be a fun fact, but it is a random one.

ECU has had a Johnny Bench Award Watch List candidate every year since 2006 (including this year), with the exception of 2009. That includes one winner (Jake Smith, 2006) and five semifinalists (2007, 2008, 2015, 2016, 2017).


Prediction

Both teams are coming into this game playing extremely well of late. The difference, however, is that State comes into this game without a definitive option to start on the mound (or at least not an option that can carry deeper than a couple of innings into the game) and a taxed bullpen. Meanwhile, the Pirates will have a former weekend starter who is hitting his stride and a bullpen backing him up that has multiple options with multiple days rest between appearances. The fact that ECU’s likely starter, Jake Agnos, is a lefty with solid velocity and good stuff facing a State offense that struggled over the last two games of the Duke series doesn’t help matters.

I think East Carolina takes this one 6-4.

Ultimately, with rain in the forecast, Mother Nature might be the one to win this game.