SMITHFIELD, R.I. – The No. 14/20 Bryant University baseball team opens play in the Charlottesville Regional on Friday night when they face East Carolina at Davenport Field. First pitch is scheduled for 4:00 p.m.
**NOTE THE TIME CHANGE FOR FRIDAY'S GAME. ORIGINALLY SCHEDULED FOR 6:00 PM, IT HAS BEEN MOVE UP TO 4:00 PM DUE TO IMPENDING WEATHER. FOLLOW @BRYANTATHLETICS AND @_BRYANTBASEBALL FOR CONTINUED WEATHER UPDATES**
The Bulldogs (47-10) are the No. 2 seed in the regional, while the Pirates (34-21-1) enter their 28th NCAA Tournament as the No. 3 seed. Virginia, the defending national champion, will serve as host and will face No. 4 seed William & Mary at 11:00 a.m. in Friday's first game.
Bryant qualified for its third NCAA Tournament in four years by earning the automatic bid from the Northeast Conference. The Black and Gold won three-straight games last weekend in Norwich, Conn., defeating Fairleigh Dickinson, 8-3, in the championship game.
The Bulldogs enter the NCAAs with a 1-4 record in their previous two trips. They went 1-2 in 2013 in the Manhattan (Kan.) Regional and 0-2 at the Baton Rouge (La.) Regional in 2014. In 2013, Bryant earned the first DI NCAA victory in school history with a 4-1 win over Arkansas in the opener. In 2014, the Black and Gold suffered two heartbreaking defeats, falling in 10 innings to both Houston and Southeast Louisiana.
Bryant, a winner of 10 straight, owns the best record in the country and is one of the most dynamic offenses in the nation. The Bulldogs rank fourth in batting average (.323), fourth in OBP (.418), sixth in scoring (8.1), 10th in slugging percentage and 12th in doubles (129). They are led by Louisville Slugger Second Team All-American first baseman Robby Rinn (Warwick, R.I.). The NEC and New England Player of the Year, Rinn is hitting .378 with a school-record 25 doubles and a career-high 61 RBI. He also has four triples, five home runs and has struck out just 16 times in 225 at-bats.
The rest of the Bulldogs' lineup features five other regulars that are hitting over .318. Senior AJ Zarozny (Shrewsbury, Mass.) is hitting .500 in his last 15 games since returning from an injury and enters the NCAA Tournament with a .371 average and 16 doubles. NEC Rookie of the Year Nick Angelini (Bedford, N.H.) is hitting .356 with 47 runs scored and senior third baseman Zach Wood (Griswold, Conn.) has six home runs and 37 RBI. Bryant leads the nation in run differential and has scored nearly 10 runs per game over the last 33.
On the mound, Louisville Slugger Second Team All-American right-hander James Karinchak (Walden, N.Y.) will get the ball on Friday night. He enters the NCAA Tournament tied for the national lead in victories and has also posted a 2.04 ERA in 88 1/3 innings. Karinchak has set the program record for wins and strikeouts in a single season and is coming off of an NEC Tournament start in which he threw seven scoreless innings.
The Bulldogs will then hand the ball to junior Brandon Bingel (Peabody, Mass.) in game two. Bingel is 9-3 with a 3.52 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 69 innings. He pitched into the eighth last weekend in the winner's bracket final and has allowed just two runs over his last 12 1/3 innings. Freshman Steve Theetge (Cicero, N.Y.) and senior James Davitt (Wallingford, Conn.) also have the chance to start this weekend. Theetge improved to 9-0 with a strong start in the NEC Championship game and Davitt is 7-2 as a starter but pitched out of the bullpen last weekend.
East Carolina received an at-large selection into the NCAA Tournament after going 0-2 in the American Athletic Conference Tournament. The Pirates are .287 as a team and have posted a 3.39 ERA. Dwanya Williams-Sutton leads the team with a .368 average, 11 doubles, five home runs and has also scored 28 runs. Eric Tyler leads the team in RBI (34), while Turner Brown (31) and Travis Watkins (32) have also drive in 30+ runs.
The Pirates will start left hander Evan Kruczynski in the opener on Friday. Kruczynski is 6-1 with a 1.99 ERA, 83 strikeouts and just 19 walks in 104 innings this season. Sam Lanier (1-1, 3.18) and Joe Ingle (5-3, 4.11, 12SV) have both made 30 appearances out of the bullpen.