The East Carolina University baseball team (0-0, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) is set to take the field for the first time since March 11, 2020, as its 2021 season will begin on Feb. 19 against the University of Rhode Island (0-0, 0-0 Atlantic 10 Conference).
The series between ECU and Rhode island will be played in Greenville at Lewis Field at Clark-LeClair Stadium. The first game will be played on Feb. 19 with the first pitch set to be thrown at 4 p.m. The game can be watched on ESPN+ and can be listened to on the radio on 94.3 The Game.
The Pirates enter the season ranked No. 19 in the country, according to the composite 2021 preseason rankings and No. 25 in the NCAA rankings. ECU was set to play Rhode Island in April 2020, but the season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
ECU has not played Rhode Island since the 2008 season. In the 2008 series, the Pirates swept the Rams 3-0 and won each game by an average of seven points, which included a 13-2 win in the series opener.
Before last season was cancelled, ECU was 13-4 and 0-0 in conference games. While the team had opened the season with a sweep of William and Mary, the last game they played was a 5-2 loss against the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
The Rams stood at 8-5 when the season abruptly stopped. They did however, end their shortened season on a four-game win streak. The streak included a win over the University of Arizona (0-0, 0-0 PAC-12 Conference), who was ranked No. 25 in the country at the time.
ECU has 22 freshmen, six sophomores, nine juniors and three seniors on the baseball team, which gives them a lot of younger players and inexperience as they head into the season. The Rams are built much more evenly in their class break up. Rhode Island has 10 freshmen, 11 sophomores, eight juniors, 14 seniors and two graduate students, which provides them with a balanced and veteran-led team composition.
Right now, ECU’s projected starters in its pitching rotation are junior right-handed pitcher Gavin Williams, senior right-handed pitcher Tyler Smith and junior left-handed pitcher Jake Kuchmaner. Kuchmaner got the most starts of the three in the shortened 2020 season and went 4-0. He pitched a total of 15 innings and gave up just 12 hits, one run in his four starts, and he had 13 strikeouts. His earned run average was .60, a team low for pitchers that pitched more than one game, according to ECUPirates.
Smith had the second most strikeouts on the team last year with 19. Smith finished with a record of 2-1. He gave up nine hits which led to four earned runs, the fourth most of any pitcher on the Pirate’s roster, which equated to a 1.96 ERA according to ECUPirates.
While Williams has missed most of his career as a Pirate due to numerous injuries, he did get to pitch a total of three innings last season and had two strikeouts, gave up two hits but didn’t give up any runs.
Senior pitcher Vitaly Jangols led the Rhode Island pitching rotation in 2020. According to gorhody.com, Jangols led all Rhode Island Pitchers with 21 innings pitched. He gave up a team high 22 hits, was tied for third on the team with strikeout with 11 and gave up eight total runs.
Senior Nick Robinson pitched the second most innings for the Rams with 17.1. While Robinson led the team in strikeouts with 13, He was also tied for second in totals runs given up with 10 as well as being second in earned runs with 10. Robinson and Jangols were the only two Rams pitchers to pitch more than 15 innings. Both finished with a record of 2-1.
After the series the Pirates next game will be against Duke University (0-0, 0-0 Atlantic Coast Conference). The game will be played in Greenville at Lewis Field at Clark-LeClair Stadium on Feb. 23 with the first pitch set for 4 p.m.