ECU’s Bryant Packard has been named American Athletic Conference Player-of-the-Year, while Alec Burleson was tabbed Freshman Pitcher-of-the-Year according to an announcement by the league off Monday afternoon. The Pirates also took home the Team Academic Excellence Award for the third-straight year after posting a 3.46 cumulative GPA.
The Pirates also had four first-team all-conference selections in DH Spencer Brickhouse, RHP Chris Holba (unanimous), 2B Brady Lloyd and Packard (unanimous) as an outfielder, while RHP Tyler Smith and OF Dwanya Williams-Sutton garnered second-team All-AAC accolades.
With the four first-team selections, the Pirates have had at least one player named to a first-team for 15-straight years (2004-present). Since joining The American in 2015, ECU has had 11 first-team all-conference members in Reid Love (2015), Luke Lowery (2015), Evan Kruczynski (2016), Dwanya Williams-Sutton (2016), Eric Tyler (2017), Travis Watkins (2017) and Charlie Yorgen (2017) to go along with this year’s selections. Holba and Packard are the third and fourth-ever unanimous picks (others: Love/2015 and Yorgen/2017).
Packard, who was named a semifinalist for the Dick Howser Trophy, is the Pirates first player-of-the-year selection since Corey Kemp (2008) won the award in Conference USA and is the seventh in program history to earn prestigious honor. The sophomore leads the club in eight offensive categories including batting average (.418), where he is tied for third nationally. He also leads the conference in slugging percentage (.714), on-base percentage (.475), hits (79) and total bases (135), while ranking among the league leaders in home runs (14/second), RBI (48/t5th) runs (46/seventh) and doubles (14/11th). Against No. 22 UCONN in the series opener, Packard singled in the fifth inning to center field setting the program record for consecutive games with a hit (30) breaking Stephen Batts’ 11-year old record. Currently he owns a 32-game hit and 37-game on-base streak.
Burleson (5-1), who was the conference’s unanimous Rookie Pitcher-of-the-Year selection, has seen time on the mound both in starting and relief roles. He ranks in the top 10 in the conference with four saves and has contributed to the conferences’ second-best pitching staff that holds a 3.27 ERA. Burleson has made six starts through 17 appearances, holding a 2.91 ERA and 45 strikeouts.
Holba heads into The American Baseball Championships with a 9-1 record and a league third-best 2.08 ERA. The righty, who has tallied eight quality starts, ranks among the league leaders in wins (first), innings pitched (73.2/ninth), fewest runs allowed (20/second), fewest earned runs allowed (17/t2nd), fewest walks (15/t3rd) and grounds outs (89/t3rd). During the season, he was Perfect Game Midseason All-America selection and was named to the Golden Spikes Midseason Watch List. In 13 starts he has registered 55 strikeouts to just 15 free passes, while allowing 76 hits in his 73.2 frames.
Lloyd took home his first all-conference accolade and is the second-straight Pirate second baseman named First-Team All-AAC. The junior owns a .328 average (62-for-189) with two home runs and 21 RBI in 53 games (50 starts). He ranks second on the team in runs (38), stolen bases (15) and multi-hit games (17), and is a two-time AAC Honor Roll section.
Brickhouse also earned his first career all-conference selection as this year’s designated hitter. The sophomore batted .285 (59-for-207) with 10 home runs, 12 doubles, 43 RBI and 40 runs scored. He has registered at least one hit in 39 of 54 games and currently has an active 24-game on-base streak. Brickhouse has tallied three game-winning RBI, 16 multi-hit, nine multi-RBI games and set a new career-high driving in six runs against Cincinnati on May 12.
Smith earned second-team accolades after posting a 7-1 record with a 1.85 ERA heading into the conference tournament. The right-hander stands among the league leaders in 14 pitching categories including fewest runs allowed (14/first), ERA (second, 20th nationally) and wins (t4th). The sophomore has posted wins against WCU, UNCC, UMD, Wichita State, Washington, Memphis and Tulane, while notching his lone save against North Carolina. He has tallied three quality starts with his first coming at Charlotte.
Williams-Sutton garnered his second career all-conference accolade after taking home first-team honors in 2016 as a freshman. The junior is batting a team second-best .343 (36-for-105) with seven home runs, 18 RBI and 31 runs scored. He leads the club with a .493 on-base percentage, has been hit 12 times and has stolen 16 of 17 bases to go along with 20 walks. Since returning to the lineup against Washington, he is hitting at a .370 clip with seven home runs, 30 runs scored and has swiped 13 bases. He has tallied 12 multi-hit, five multi-RBI games and hit a pair of home runs against Tulane (May 5) and Campbell (May 15).
The Pirates (39-15) will open the 2018 American Baseball Championships on Tuesday, May 22 at Spectrum Field against No. 5 seed UCF (35-19). First pitch has been moved up to 9 a.m. (ET) due to potential rain in the area later in the evening.