Tournament Most Outstanding Player Hunter Allen went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and pitcher Nick Durazo worked five innings of one-hit shutout relief as No. 2-seeded East Carolina was a 9-1 winner against top-seeded Houston Sunday to win the American Athletic Conference Baseball Championship at Bright House Field.
The Pirates, who went 4-0 in the six-day, eight-team tournament, earn The American’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championship. It is East Carolina’s first conference tournament title since the Pirates won the 2002 Conference USA crown.
Lance Bolka hit a two-run home run for East Carolina (40-20), which scored eight of its nine runs with two outs. Leftfielder Luke Lowery went 2-for-5 with three RBIs, while centerfielder Reid Love was 2-for-4 with two runs scored.
Bolka, the Pirates’ No. 9 hitter who had just 24 at bats and one RBI on the season prior to the game, gave East Carolina a 3-1 lead in the top of the fifth inning when he sent a line drive over the leftfield fence for a two-run home run. That ignited a five-run fifth inning that effectively put the game away as Lowery’s bases-loaded single gave the Pirates a 6-1 cushion.
The lead proved to be plenty for Durazo, who came on after Pirate starting pitcher David Lucroy was unable to start the fifth inning due to cramping. Durazo retired 15 of the 16 batters he faced, allowing only an eighth-inning single, and struck out five to improve to 5-0 on the year.
The Pirates had struck first when Charlie Yorgen was hit by a pitch and took second on Reid Love’s base hit to leftfield. The runners moved up on a double steal and Yorgen came home on Eric Tyler’s grounder to second to give East Carolina a 1-0 lead.
Houston tied it in the bottom of the second inning when Corey Julks reached on a leadoff hit to center, moved to second on a walk, was bunted to third and scored on Justin Montemayor’s sacrifice fly to left.
East Carolina’s five-run fifth pushed the lead to 6-1, and the Pirates added three more in the top of the ninth as Lowery’s two-run single to left capped the scoring.
Allen was chosen as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after he went 9-for-18 with a double, triple and six runs scored. He joined Lowery, Love and pitcher Joe Ingle as the Pirates’ representatives on the all-tournament team.
Houston, which saw an eight-game winning streak snapped, fell to 42-18 on the year. Rightfielder Kyle Survance went 2-for-4 and was the only Cougar player with multiple hits. Houston had shortstop Connor Wong, catcher Ian Rice, outfielder Corey Julks and pitcher Andrew Lantrip on the all-tournament team.
The other all-tournament selections were infielder Vinny Siena and designated hitter Joe DeRoche-Duffin of UConn and infielder Brandon Montgomery and outfielder Darien Tubbs of Memphis.
NCAA Championship selections will be announced Monday, while the hosts of the 16 regional sites will be announced later Sunday. The American enters the NCAA Championship as the No. 3-rated conference in terms of RPI.
2015 AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE BASEBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
bright house field • clearwater, fla.
Tuesday, May 19
Game 1 – No. 4 USF 10, No. 5 Memphis 6
Game 2 – No. 1 Houston 8, No. 8 Cincinnati 4
Wednesday, May 20
Game 3 – No. 2 East Carolina 4, No. 7 UCF 3
Game 4 – No. 3 Tulane 3, No. 6 UConn 1
Game 5 – Memphis 14, Cincinnati 9 (Cincinnati eliminated)
Thursday, May 21
Game 6 – UConn 4, UCF 3 (11 innings) (UCF eliminated)
Game 7 – Houston 7, USF 3
Game 8 – East Carolina 3, Tulane 1
Friday, May 22
Game 9 – Memphis 4, USF 1 (USF eliminated)
Game 10 – UConn 7, Tulane 6 (Tulane eliminated)
Saturday, May 23
Game 11 – Houston 17, Memphis 3 (8 innings) (Memphis eliminated)
Game 12 – East Carolina 4, UConn 2 (UConn eliminated)
Sunday, May 24
Game 15 – East Carolina 9, Houston 1
P Joe Ingle, East Carolina
P Andrew Lantrip, Houston
IF Vinny Siena, UConn
IF Hunter Allen, East Carolina
IF Connor Wong, Houston
IF Brandon Montgomery, Memphis
OF Luke Lowery, East Carolina
OF Corey Julks, Houston
OF Darien Tubbs, Memphis
C Ian Rice, Houston
UTY Reid Love, East Carolina
DH Joe DeRoche-Duffin, UConn
Most Outstanding Player
Hunter Allen, SS, East Carolina