Another great starting pitching performance from ECU’s dynamic duo of Jake’s led to even more evidence that the gap between No. 1 and No. 2 in the American Athletic Conference isn’t close.
ECU left-hander Jake Kuchmaner pitched 8.1 innings, allowing just one run on five hits to lead the Pirates to an 8-2 win over Tulane Saturday afternoon in Clark-LeClair Stadium.
No. 11 ECU (33-10, 13-1 AAC) further stretches its first-place lead atop the conference over Tulane (26-16, 8-5 AAC) with the series win. ECU still has won every conference series it has played so far this season and is now up to an eight-game winning streak.
ECU now has won 14 straight home games, while Tulane is just 5-7 on the road this season. ECU is now up to No. 3 in national RPI rankings as of Saturday night. Kuchmaner doesn’t anticipate ECU thinking about that for too long.
“You think about it for one moment, but then you get back on the horse because there’s more work to do. There’s still however many weeks of the season left, and we’ve got another game tomorrow, so it’s not like we can take our foot off the gas,” Kuchmaner said.
ECU will go for the series sweep Sunday at noon at Clark-LeClair Stadium.
Kuchmaner followed up fellow left-handed starter Jake Agnos, who pitched 5.0 scoreless innings in a 14-0 win on Friday night. Kuchmaner was much more efficient, however, as Agnos tied a career-high with five walks but Kuchmaner walked just two. That allowed Kuchmaner to go deeper into the game, as he threw just 98 pitches going into the ninth inning.
Kuchmaner got a big ovation from the crowd as he walked out to the mound to start the ninth inning, trying to go for his first complete game since throwing the 29th perfect game in college baseball history on Mar. 17 against Maryland. He gave up a single to the second batter in the inning and ECU head coach Cliff Godwin pulled him for Sam Lanier.
Kuchmaner received an even bigger standing ovation as he left to the dugout. Lanier wasn’t flawless, giving up one run in his time but he got the Pirates to the finish line for the victory.
“I definitely felt good coming into this week. All this week I threw well. Arm felt really good. I expected to go a little bit longer just as myself, so it was good to help the team,” Kuchmaner said.
His last out in the eighth inning was his fifth strikeout of the game, and it came against Tulane’s best hitter Kody Hoese. Hoese came in the weekend ninth in the country with a .417 batting average. Hoese also leads the country with 21 home runs, is the leader in home runs per game and ranks fourth in hits.
As a team, Tulane is second in the country in home runs, 10th in hits, and eighth in runs. Yet ECU has held the Green Wave to one run through two games in the series so far.
“Kuchmaner was huge, and against one of the best offenses in the country. The thing it does is it just allows your bullpen to be really fresh on Sundays because at times on Sunday you don’t have as many options after the first two games. Tomorrow, we’ll have some options in the bullpen, which we’ll probably need for an offense like Tulane’s,” Godwin said.
Tulane starter Gillies struggled mightily, giving up five runs in just 1.1 innings pitched. Campbell did an admirable job out of the bullpen, slowing the ECU offense down by giving up one run in 5.0 innings.
Seth Caddell got the start at catcher because of the rapport he has built up with Kuchmaner throughout the season. Caddell promptly led the Pirates at the plate by going 3-for-4 with a double.
The top five batters, Bryant Packard, Lane Hoover, Spencer Brickhouse, Alec Burleson, and Turner Brown, in the ECU lineup all drove in one run apiece, and Ryder Giles (2-for-3) drove in the sixth run from the nine spot.
Packard finished 3-for-4 and Giles went 2-for-3.
ECU got off to a 1-0 lead in the first inning thanks to a Burleson RBI single that scored Packard. Packard singled to start the inning and Hoover moved him on a sacrifice bunt. Brown then doubled to score Burleson from second to make it 2-0 ECU.
ECU tallied another run in the second inning. Caddell scored as Giles reached first base on what should have been a fielding error but was instead ruled a single. After a Packard single, Hoover then singled home Giles to make it 4-0 ECU. Brickhouse grounded out to first base to score Packard from third.
Packard was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the third inning to make it 6-0.
“It’s very important, with their offense, to get ahead because they have some really good hitters in that lineup. Getting ahead early with runs and strikes is a big part of beating that team right there,” Caddell said.
Tulane had gone 18 innings without scoring a run before finally getting one across the top of the fourth inning. The Green Wave scored a run, but it still wasn’t all good as it came as the Pirates turned a double play.
Neither team would score again until ECU would add two more runs in the bottom of the eighth inning. Packard doubled and Hoover hit a sacrifice fly to score Giles from third to make it 7-1. Brickhouse then followed with another sacrifice fly to score pinch runner Christian Jayne.
Tulane head coach Travis Jewett was ejected in the inning for arguing balls and strikes.