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CLEARWATER, Fla. — With expected rain playing havoc with the American Athletic Conference tournament schedule and testing the resolve of pitching staffs, East Carolina received the best possible gift in Friday’s elimination semifinal against the Houston Cougars.
Freshman right-hander Jake Kuchmaner tossed a seven-inning complete game and limited the Cougars to just three more hits after a leadoff solo home run as the Pirates cruised into Saturday morning’s tournament championship game with a 12-1 run-rule victory at Robin Roberts Field. ECU moved to 42-16 overall and clinched its third appearance in the American championship game in four seasons as a conference member. Houston, the regular-season champion, fell to 36-23.
The Pirates will face UConn, the No. 2 seed, in Saturday’s one-game championship at Spectrum Field. Due to expected rain, the start time has been moved up to 10 a.m.
ECU gave Kuchmaner (4-0) plenty of support after the solo shot by Houston pitcher Tyler Bielamowicz (0-2). After two runs in the bottom of the first, the Pirates, without AAC Player of the Year Bryant Packard due to injury, struck for five more in the third.
Along the way, ECU’s Wilson-area products contributed. Junior Dwanya Williams-Sutton, a Greenfield School graduate, finished 2 for 4 with a double. He had a fifth-inning RBI single. Freshman Bryson Worrell, a Hunt High product, was 2 for 3 with a double and a run batted in.
Worrell drove in a run as part of ECU’s five-run third. Sophomore Spencer Brickhouse and freshman Connor Litton each tallied three hits as the Pirates tallied 11 as a team.
Bielamowicz lasted just 2 1/3 innings and allowed seven runs in that span, all earned. Kuchmaner struck out five and walked one, requiring 97 pitches to go the distance.