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Virginia Baseball: Previewing the East Carolina Pirates

Virginia hosts its first weekend series of the year as they welcome the Pirates from East Carolina. The Pirates enter the series 4-0 and looked tremendous both on the mound and at the plate. It will be a great series, so here are some things to watch for as the Pirates come to town.

Virginia's Matt Thaiss proved last weekend why he is a candidate for All-American
Virginia's Matt Thaiss proved last weekend why he is a candidate for All-American
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

After going 2-1 last weekend and thumping VMI in its home opener, the Hoos return to Davenport as they host the East Carolina Pirates. This marks the fifth year in a row that these two teams square off in non-conference competition with Virginia going 13-2 on those contests (one game was played in the NCAA Regionals, a 13-1 UVA win). East Carolina comes in hot. After earning a second seed in the Coral Gables Regional a year ago, the Pirates have started the 2016 campaign 4-0, shellacking Longwood last weekend, and NC A&T earlier this week. They will provide a solid test early in the season and a good preview of what the Hoos will face come the ACC season.

The Pirates received excellent starting pitching all weekend long against Longwood. In all their starters worked a combined 18 innings giving up only two earned runs and striking out 14. They were led on Friday by LHP Evan Kruczynski who worked seven scoreless innings of one hit ball. Saturday, the Hoos will face off against LHP Jacob Wolfe, who like Kruczynski didn't give up a run in his six innings of work. Wolfe showed a little more ability to make batters miss as he struck out a career high seven batters. Sunday, Jimmy Boyd will take the hill for East Carolina. While his outing wasn't as impressive as his teammates, he did show good command allowing only two runs while giving up no walks and giving his team a good chance to win.

As good as ECU's starting pitching was last weekend, the same can't be said of the bullpen. In 15 innings, the bullpen surrendered eight runs (seven earned) on their way to a 4.20 ERA. If it weren't for preseason candidate for stopper of the year, Joe Ingle who earned two saves in 2.2 scoreless innings, the weekend could have turned out much different for the Pirates.

While coming into the season, most knew starting pitching would be a strength for the Pirates, nobody expected the offense and the 36 runs that put up in four games to be this good, this soon. And in a very pleasant surprise, the thump in the East Carolina lineup came from a pair of Freshmen as shortstop Turner Brown and designated hitter Dwanya Williams-Sutton combined for 11 hits and ten RBI. Brown also launched East Carolina's only home run of the young season. Also providing the firepower for the Pirates was centerfielder Garrett Brooks who is batting .500 on the year and Bryce Harman who is tied with first baseman Williams-Sutton for the team lead in RBI with six. Virginia catchers Matt Thaiss and Robbie Coman figure to be busy as the Pirates were 11-12 in stolen bases. This is a team that likes to get em on, get em over, and get em in.

Friday's showdown between Kruczynski and Connor Jones will be one you won't want to miss and starts at 3 p.m. Both Saturday and Sunday's games begin at 1 p.m.