What you need to know:
The Greenville Regional at Clark-LeClair Stadium is hosted obviously by the ECU Pirates for the second consecutive year. They are joined by NC State (2), Campbell (3) and Quinnipiac (4).
The Wolfpack and Campbell kick off the regional at noon on Friday, followed by ECU and Quinnipiac at 6 p.m. The rest of the schedule is as follows: the losers of games 1 and 2 play on Saturday at 11 a.m. with the loser of that game being eliminated. The winners of games 1 and 2 play at 4 p.m. The winner of the morning game plays the loser of the late game, and the winner of the late game awaits in the championship game.
ECU won’t necessarily be the home team in each game of the regional, despite their superior regular season and earned home-field advantage. ECU landed the No. 10 national seed but that doesn’t mean the Pirates couldn’t host a super regional. The Greenville regional is paired with the Louisville regional and they would need Louisville to lose that regional for more baseball to be played at Clark-LeClair Stadium.
ECU didn’t necessarily deserve that top-8 spot either. The Pirates had the poor showing down in Clearwater, Florida. They weren’t exactly impressive against other top national teams this season either, losing to Mississippi State and being swept by UCLA.
The good news is that in the Pirates path to the CWS, there are no SEC teams and only two ACC teams, NC State and Louisville. ECU lost the Greenville regional to an SEC team a year ago in 2-seed South Carolina.
The Pirates only lost one series all season long, a sweep at the hands of No. 1 UCLA in Los Angeles, on their way to a 43-15 record. They were even better in the American Athletic Conference, going 20-4. That was a record for the most wins in AAC history and the only 20-win conference season. ECU went 1-2 in AAC tournament, losing to Wichita State twice.
AAC Pitcher-of-the-Year Jake Agnos (and now first-team All American according to Collegiate Baseball) and Jake Kuchmaner, who threw the 29th perfect game college baseball history, combine for the best starting pitching combination in the regional and almost anywhere else. Alec Burleson is a semifinalist for the best two-way player in the country and has at times carried ECU at the plate. He is better suited to come out of the bullpen and be Godwin’s wild-card reliever as opposed to being a starter. The Pirates need AAC POY Bryant Packard, who still batted way above .300, as usual, this season, to show up and be the best hitter at this regional. The Lane Hoover injury still is a question mark, in terms of the production the team gets from that void.
ECU is throwing Kuchmaner against Quinnipiac since they are the No. 4 seed, and will save Agnos for a potential matchup with the Wolfpack (or Campbell) on Saturday.
The Other teams:
Quinnipiac finished 29-27, and 17-7 in conference and won the MAAC. Quinnipiac went 3-0 and won MAAC tournament. ECU only played Quinnipiac once, winning 12-9 in Greenville back in 2008. Not much history there.
Campbell finished 35-19, and 19-7 in the Big South conference. Campbell went 3-0 and won Big South tournament. Campbell considered a dangerous team and gave ECU competitive games recently.
The Pirates went 1-1 against Campbell this season. ECU won 4-3 on May 14 at home and lost 7-6 at Campbell on Feb. 20 back when the sky was falling early on for Pirate fans. Only two earned runs in the loss, Gavin Williams got the midweek start against Seth Johnson, who threw four innings and only allowed one hit. ECU scored six runs to rally in the last two innings and tied the game at 6-6 but fell just short. They lost on a walk-off in the ninth inning.
Evan Odum got his first career start in the win and pitched just two innings as Godwin was employing his strategy of a bullpen day for midweek games. Williams then went 3.1 innings and all other ECU pitchers held them scoreless the rest of the way. Johnson did not pitch against them that time and the starter struggled in his place.
NC State finished 42-17 but just 18-12 in conference. Started out great, being 27-2 at one point and reached No. 2 at one point before going 6-10 for a stretch, including a five-game losing streak. State went 1-2 in ACC tournament, losing to Florida State and Georgia Tech. They do have top MLB draft prospect Will Wilson at shortstop.
The potential matchup with NC State attracts the most attention and excitement. ECU fans have been clamoring for a matchup against the Wolfpack in baseball. They were robbed of one last season when the Wolfpack canceled due to weather that never ended up being inclement. ECU has been down in football recently, getting destroyed by NC State to end last season, and hasn’t been relevant in basketball in a long time. Pirate fans would love nothing more than for ECU to give them bragging rights in baseball, the sport where ECU fans take pride in.
ECU fans welcome the rivalry and will flock to cheer against NC State all weekend. Perhaps that is why NC State head coach Elliot Avent is against it. State fans will surely remind ECU fans of the football field in case of a loss.
ECU still has to deal with the monkey on its back of getting to Omaha. ECU fans have been waiting for the Pirates to finally reach the College World Series. 30 regional berths are the most ever for a team without a CWS appearance.
It is exponentially more difficult from the loser’s bracket, as last season showed us. They need to take the first matchup seriously and try to get over the hump.
ECU needs to get out of regional to avoid potentially getting the reputation of a great regular season team that can’t perform in the postseason. ECU fans are correct, even if ECU went 0-2 and bounced out immediately that would not diminish the quality of the program in any facet on a long-term scale. The baseball team has been the stability for an Athletics program missing it for years now. Godwin has been great and has turned down SEC jobs, and it’s the most successful Pirate team in the major sports by far. But fair or not, the postseason is how the good programs are separated from the great.