CLEARWATER, Fla. – Pitcher Jake Agnos worked seven shutout innings, allowing only two hits, as No. 8-seeded East Carolina advanced to the final of the American Athletic Conference Baseball Championship with a 4-0 victory against top-seeded UCF Saturday at Spectrum Field.
East Carolina (32-27) will face Houston for the American Athletic Conference Championship title Sunday at noon ET/11 a.m. CT on ESPNews. The winner will receive The American’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.
UCF (40-20) was eliminated from the tournament with it second loss.
Agnos allowed only a third-inning single and a seventh-inning single and walked three, but was otherwise flawless as he struck out six to silence a UCF lineup that had scored a combined 23 runs and had 32 hits in its first three tournament games.
Catcher Travis Watkins gave the Pirates the only run they would need when he drilled a 2-2 pitch over the wall in left-center in the top of the first to put the Pirates on the board. First baseman Spencer Brickhouse fouled off three two-strike pitches before his long home run to the left-center power alley in the top of the fourth.
Rightfielder Drew Henrickson helped to keep the Knights scoreless when he made a leaping catch at the wall to pull a would-be home run back to start the bottom of the sixth. Henrickson made another tough catch at the warning track for the second out of the inning and the Pirates caught a UCF baserunner off third base on the play for a big inning-ending double play.
The Pirates made it 3-0 in the top of the seventh when the Knights lost Charlie Yorgen’s line drive to right in the sun, giving Yorgen three bases and allowing Wes Phillips to score from first. Watkins followed with a base hit up the middle to give East Carolina a 4-0 lead.
Watkins went 2-for-5 and had half of East Carolina’s four hits. Tyler Smith and Matt Bridges combined to pitch the last two innings and complete the shutout.
UCF starter Jason Bahr (0-2) allowed three hits and two runs in four innings with five strikeouts. First-baseman Rylan Thomas had two of the Knights’ three hits on the day.
Sunday’s championship final will be a rematch of the 2015 final, when East Carolina was a 9-1 winner against Houston. The Pirates become the first No. 8 seed to reach the final and look for their first win against the Cougars this season. Houston took all three regular-season matchups when the teams met April 7-9 at Houston’s Schroeder Park.
The latest information on the American Athletic Conference Baseball Championship is available on the conference’s Championship Central page at www.TheAmerican.org/Baseball.2017 AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE BASEBALL CHAMPIONSHIPSPECTRUM field ∙ clearwater, fla.Tuesday, May 23
Game 1 – No. 2 Houston 6, No. 7 Memphis 5
Game 2 – No. 3 UConn 12, No. 6 Cincinnati 3
Game 3 – No. 4 USF 7, No. 5 Tulane 6
Game 4 – No. 8 East Carolina 14, No.1 UCF 3Wednesday, May 24
Game 5 – Memphis 15, Cincinnati 14 (10 innings; Cincinnati eliminated)Thursday, May 25
Game 6 – UCF, 8, Tulane 3 (Tulane eliminated)
Game 7 – Houston 7, UConn 6
Game 8 – East Carolina 6, USF 5Friday, May 26
Game 9 – UConn 7, Memphis 5 (Memphis eliminated)
Game 10 – UCF 12, USF 0 (USF eliminated)Saturday, May 27
Game 11 – Houston 13, UConn 3 (UConn eliminated)
Game 12 – East Carolina 4, UCF 0 (UCF eliminated)Sunday, May 28 (ESPNews)
Houston (39-19) vs. East Carolina (32-27)……………………………………………………………….. Noon