Pirates Face Cougars For First Place

ECU’s hopes for a conference title could become more clear this weekend when it travels to take on conference-foe Houston for a three-game set.

East Carolina (31-18, 11-7 AAC) and Houston (33-16, 11-7 AAC) are both tied for first place with identical conference records and when the two teams meet this weekend for a three-game series, it will likely be with the American Conference regular season title on the line.

“I’m proud that we’re in a position to hopefully win the conference,” coach Cliff Godwin said. “Obviously, Houston is very good so we’re going to have to go in there and play our best baseball.”

ECU is arguably playing its best baseball of the season, claiming its last three weekend series. Despite getting routed in last weekend's series opener against UConn, the Pirates bounced back to win the last two games and take the series, keeping their conference championship hopes alive.

As a result of last week's slow start, the first-year head coach Cliff Godwin will take a different approach to this series.

“That’s one thing I probably did a bad job of last weekend,” Godwin said in regards to his team’s preparation last weekend. “We talked about the importance of winning Friday night and then we just relaxed on Saturday and Sunday and the team did a better job when they felt like the underdogs.”

Akin to the Pirates, Houston is riding a hot streak of its own. The Cougars have taken four straight conference series victories thanks to strong offensive production.

The Cougars outscored Tulane 11-4 last weekend and took a crucial road series victory, which helped position them in a strong position for the conference title. According to co-captain Hunter Allen, the Pirates won’t be doing too much different when they face off with the Cougars starting on Friday.

“We just have to keep playing like we’ve been playing, and just play hard and have fun,” Allen said. “We’ve just been taking it one day at a time and we just want to play hard and play our game.”

Led by junior slugger Chris Iriart, Houston boasts one of the conference’s best offenses and is ranked second in the AAC in terms of home runs. Iriart owns a team-best 14 homers so far this season.

“We’re going to have to play well in all three facets of the game,” Allen said. “Houston is a good team so we’re going to have to play good defense and our pitchers are going to have to throw well.”

With conference and potentially regional hopes on the line this weekend, the Pirates know what’s at stake. Playing a strong conference team on the road is never easy, but that hasn’t affected Godwin’s confidence in his team.

“Any time you go on the road, obviously you’re playing one of the better teams in the country and you need to play well,” Godwin said. “If we play like we do everything will work out for us. We’re not going to talk about it or go into any differently.”

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