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UConn Baseball Weekend Preview: East Carolina

The Huskies host East Carolina in the final weekend of conference play.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

After seven weekends of conference series, the top five teams in the American Athletic Conference are separated by two games. Each team has one three-game series left in AAC play.

AAC Baseball Standings

Team Record Games Back RPI (NCAA- 5/17) Remaining Series
Team Record Games Back RPI (NCAA- 5/17) Remaining Series
USF 13-8 --- 21 @UCF
UCF 13-8 --- 27 USF
Houston 13-8 --- 22 Cincinnati
UConn 12-9 1 41 East Carolina
Tulane 11-10 2 81 @Memphis
Cincinnati 9-12 4 84 @Houston
Memphis 7-14 6 94 Tulane
East Carolina 6-15 8 85 @UConn

UConn can finish no worse than fifth place in The American heading into the conference tournament in Clearwater, Florida and can improve its situation with a series win over East Carolina (28-25, 6-15) at home this weekend.

The Pirates were preseason favorites in The American. After an 18-8 start to the season, they have won just 10 of their last 27 contests, including a home sweep at the hands of the Huskies to open the league slate.

Keeping East Carolina above .500 and thus eligible for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament is a 18-0 record against sub-100 RPI teams, going 14-0 against those teams before conference play.

Once the Pirates started playing stronger teams from The American, however, they struggled. In 22 games against RPI top-50 teams, they have a 1-21 record with the only win coming on March 4 against St. John’s.

Part of their problems in conference games can be attributed to the six-week absence of preseason co-pitcher of the year Evan Kruczynski due to an ankle injury. He left his March 3 start against Western Carolina and did not pitch again until April 15 against UCF.

Since his full return, he has been inconsistent in the top starter role, allowing 15 runs in 18 2/3 innings for a 7.23 ERA in his last three starts.

Joe Ingle, who was one of the better closers in the country in 2016, also left the team and last pitched on April 11. He had been much less effective in 2017, allowing opposing batters to hit .284 against him, registering two saves in 15 appearances. The Pirates only have five saves on the year.

A series win would be great for the Huskies. With an RPI in the low 40s, they are hardly a lock for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. UConn is 17-15 against the RPI top-100 and taking two out of three would guarantee a winning record against those teams. That could be a valuable accolade to have on the Regional bubble and would also give them positive momentum heading into the conference tournament.

UConn and East Carolina will open their series on Thursday evening at 7:05 p.m. at Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford, Connecticut. Friday and Saturday’s games will be at J.O. Christian Field at 3 p.m. and 1 p.m., respectively.