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Charlottesville Regional: East Carolina Pirates Preview

East Carolina comes to Charlottesville as the number three seed in the regional. Despite their lower seeding, the Pirates a very dangerous having already taken two of three from the Hoos earlier in the year.

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The East Carolina Pirates finished the season 34-21-1 overall, and 15-8-1 to finish second in the American Athletic Conference. The Pirates will be in the NCAA Tournament for the 28th time in their history and second year in a row. This will be the second time they visit Charlottesville for Regionals having finished second to the Hoos in 2011. The two teams are very familiar with each other as East Carolina might as well be in the ACC. Since 2010, ECU and Virginia have squared off 18 times. Compare that to how many times in that same time Virginia has faced ACC foes Clemson (17), Wake Forest (13), and Boston College (11).

How they got here

As late as the first week of May, ECU looked to be a cinch to make the NCAA Tournament, and with a strong finish could have made a case to be a host. But then they dropped a series at home to South Florida (169 RPI) and then went two and a barbecue in the American Athletic Conference Tournament. In the end, an RPI of 36 with series wins over Virginia, Connecticut, and Houston plus mid-week wins over NC State, Duke, and UNC Wilmington propelled them to an at-large berth in this year's tournament.

On the mound

While they won't blow teams away, East Carolina has a very solid pitching staff top to bottom. They are led by ace Evan Kruczynski. The junior led the team with a 1.99 ERA on his way to a 6-1 record which saw him earn first team all conference honors and makes him a good bet to hear his name called in next week's draft. The lefty isn't a strikeout machine, but does have great command evident by his 83 strikeouts to just 19 walks. Behind him on Saturday, and the pitcher Virginia would be most likely to face if the two teams meat on the second day is Jimmy Boyd. Boyd sports a 7-5 record with a 2.65 ERA, while only allowing hitters to average .222. Rounding out the rotation is Jacob Wolfe. The 6-3 leftie throws from a low slot which allowed him to go 6-3 on the year with a 2.44 ERA. He also isn't very hittable allowing only a .236 average.

East Carolina's bullpen is led by closer Joe Ingle. On the year, the right-hander racked up 12 saves while striking out 66 batters in 46 innings. Hitters are also only managing a .208 average against him. Also factoring in to the the Pirates' relief efforts are Sam Lanier and Matt Bridges. Lanier appeared in 30 games this season and boasts a 3.18 ERA, while Bridges is the long relief man and only allowed hitters a .226 average.

At the plate

The Pirates' bats won't overwhelm teams, but like their pitching staff, they are very solid. East Carolina is led by standout Dwanya Williams-Sutton who earned first team all conference in his freshman year. Williams-Sutton batted .368 on the year with five home runs. Behind him is steady catcher Travis Watkins, who in addition to being one the best defensive catchers in the country, hit .314 and led the team in doubles. Parker Lamm sets the table, hit .286, and stole a team high 12 bases. Third Baseman Eric Tyler hit .297 and led the team in RBI.

The Pirates won't be afraid coming into Charlottesville having taken the two teams' weekend series earlier in the year. They'll have to get by Bryant first, but this team has the talent and consistency to win the regional. East Carolina faces Bryant on Friday at 6 P.M. The matchup between Kruczynski and the Bryant offense will be one to watch, as while the Bryant offense is very good, they don't fave the caliber of Kruczynski on a "weekend in / weekend out" basis.