ECU Wins AAC Tournament Championship
Throughout his first season as East Carolina’s skipper, Cliff Godwin has preached that two-out RBI wins championships. This saying was never truer than in Sunday afternoon’s American Athletic Conference Championship at Bright House Field. Deadlocked 1-1 in the fifth inning, the Pirates (40-20) registered five runs on five two-out hits on their way to a 9-1 victory over No. 18 Houston (42-18) and the program’s first conference championship title since 2002, which was Keith LeClair’s last season in Greenville. Eight of ECU’s nine runs on Sunday were scored with two outs. However, the spark in the fifth-inning explosion came from an unlikely source: sophomore designated hitter Luke Bolka, whose name had not appeared on a lineup card since April 18. Batting in the No. 9 spot, Bolka broke the tie with a long, two-run home run to left field. It was his second homer of the season, but was followed by back-to-back singles, a hit-by-pitch, a bases-loaded walk and Luke Lowery’s two-run single to put ECU up 6-1. For good measure, Lowery logged another two-RBI single —finishing 2-for-5 at the plate with four RBI — with two outs in the ninth inning. Entering the pivotal fifth inning, the Pirates had just two hits off of the conference’s freshman of the year, Seth Romero, but chased him out of the game with the streak of two-out hits. ECU junior right-hander David Lucroy allowed five hits and one run in his four innings of work, before giving way to Nick Durazo, who retired the first nine batters he faced and surrendered just one hit over the final five frames. Senior co-captain Hunter Allen, who was named the tournament’s most outstanding player, pumped three hits (3-for-5) against Houston pitchers and scored a run. Allen's classmate Reid Love also booked multiple hits (2-for-4) and touched home plate once. while sophomore Charlie Yorgen was 1-for-2 at the plate, but hit by pitches three separate times, which allowed him to score twice on Sunday. Heading into the NCAA tournament, ECU has now won eight straight games and 11 of its last 14. The Pirates will learn where they will play their first regional since 2012 on Monday at noon on ESPN’s selection show. The championship win also propelled the Pirates to the 40-win plateau, which hasn’t been done since 2011.
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