While fellow Regional participants Virginia and Coastal Carolina have each won national championships in the last seven years, don’t sleep on the host East Carolina Pirates. Very quietly, the Pirates have turned into one of the most successful baseball programs of the last twenty years.
This season they come into Regionals riding an 18 game winning streak, the best in the country which is good enough to earn them the #8 National Seed in the whole tournament. They’re led by head coach Cliff Godwin who earned American Athletic Conference (AAC) Coach of the Year honors and has ECU in their sixth NCAA Tournament in the last seven times it’s been played. In those six appearances, they’ve won their regional three times, but they’re still searching for that elusive first trip to Omaha.
For the year, ECU went 42-18 overall, 20-4 in the AAC and breezed through their conference tournament going 4-0.
Leading the way for the Pirates is Carter Spivey who in a rare feat was named AAC Pitcher of the Year coming out of the bullpen. Spivey led the league in ERA at 2.42 and amassed a 7-0 record with five saves. On the year he had 68 strikeouts and a 1.12 WHIP. He was key for an East Carolina pitching staff that doesn’t rely heavily on long outings by their starters meaning he often pitched multiple innings in his appearances.
Joining Spivey on the AAC First Team were Zach Agnos, Ryder Giles, and Lane Hoover. Agnos is the Pirates’ do-it-all shortstop who batted .324 with seven home runs while also going 3-0 with a 2.89 ERA in 18.2 innings pitched. Hoover led the team in batting average, hits, on-base percentage, and tied for the team lead in doubles. Like Agnos, Giles was a two-way player starting at shortstop at the beginning of the year before entering the rotation as ECU’s Saturday starter. Once in the rotation, he recorded a 4-1 record with a 2.86 ERA in nine games started.
Making the All-AAC Second Team were pitchers C.J. Mayhue and Garrett Saylor. Mayhue is the Pirates’ Friday starter though he only had ten starts in 28 appearances. He comes into Regionals sporting a 4-1 record with 2.90 ERA. Saylor was the anchor at the back end of the staff serving as ECU’s closer for much of the year earning five saves, a 6-3 record and a stellar 12.66 K/9 Inning rate.
Also making the Second Team at the plate were DH Cam Clonch, third baseman Alec Makarewicz, second baseman Jacob Starling, and outfielder Bryson Worrell. Clonch batted .287 with six home runs in just 41 games played. Makarewicz started all 60 games at third and belted nine home runs. Starling scored 30 runs and had 4 home runs in just 43 games played. Worrell led the Pirates in home runs with 14 while batting .316. Not to be outdone, Jacob Jenkins-Cowart batted .327 and knocked 12 home runs.
East Carolina is making their 18th appearance in NCAA Regionals since 1999 (31st overall) and it’s the fourth time in a row they’ve drawn hosting duties. Since 2001 they’ve been to six Super-Regionals including in the last two tournaments.
The Pirates and Hoos are no strangers to one another, in neither the regular season nor the NCAA Tournament. All-time Virginia is 30-23 against East Carolina, but 14-5 in the Coach O’Connor era. The two teams faced off in the Charlottesville Regional in 2011 and 2016 with the two teams splitting their only two head to head matchups. The Hoos won the 2011 Regional with East Carolina coming out on top in 2016, the last time the two teams faced off (in either regular or post season).
East Carolina will face an overmatched Coppin State squad in the opener, but regardless of opponent should be in for a good matchup facing either the Cavaliers or Chanticleers. They get things started against the Eagles Friday, June 3rd at 1 p.m. on ESPN+.