I don’t confess to know nearly as much baseball as I would like to know, but I was on target early in Sunday’s rubber match between East Carolina and Tulane.
Pirate starting pitcher Jake Agnos wasn’t getting any close strike calls and ECU coach Cliff Godwin had seen enough.
I told my fellow media members sitting around me that Cliff didn’t really want to talk to Agnos. Cliff Godwin’s trip to the mound was get in some words with home plate umpire Harry Greer.
I called it. I said Cliff would stand there on the mound until the home plate umpire came out to break up the party. I said that Cliff would then say just enough to get his point across without getting thrown out of the game.
I can only imagine that the conversation went something like this.
Greer: “Coach, let’s go… let’s move it along… let’s play ball…”
Godwin: “Sir, those pitches were awfully close. We’re in for a long day if you don’t give us any of those.”
Greer: “Coach, you know you can’t argue balls and strikes.”
Godwin: “I’m not arguing. I’m just saying… those are strikes on any other day…”
Greer: “That’s a warning….”
Godwin set the table for his starting pitcher, and Jake Agnos went to work.
Godwin was asked about his early game meeting on the mound after the game.
“Actually I was talking to the umpire,” said Godwin. “I told [Agnos] that he was doing a great job, that he just had to keep filling it up.”
Agnos gave up just one run in 7 1/3 innings in the 5-3 series clinching win over Tulane. He allowed four hits and struck out ten. He also drew high praise from his coach.
“I challenged Jake before the game in front of the whole team,” said Godwin. “We needed a start like he gave us today. They are the best offense in the league. To go out there and give up just one run in 7 1/3, Jake Agnos was the difference in the game today.”
Agnos said he tried to pitch with a clear head.
“Don’t think,” said Agnos when asked what the key was to his performance. “I think too much sometimes on the mound. I heard someone say this week that the only off day is the day you pitch. I know I think too much so I tried to really keep my head clear.”
With back to back series wins the Pirates hope they are building momentum.
After this weekend’s play, there is a 5-way tie for first in the American standings. South Florida, Central Florida, Tulane, Houston and Connecticut all stand at 9-6.
So with nine AAC games to go, ECU is five full games out of the fifth spot, and five full games out of first place. The Pirates are two games out of sixth, but hold the tiebreaker with Cincinnati. ECU is a game out of seventh behind Memphis.
The Pirates have conference series remaining with USF, Memphis and UConn.
The goal now is to finish strong and win the American tournament.
“I quit looking at those [conference standings] a long time ago,” said Godwin. “I’m just worried with how we are playing and I thought our guys showed a lot of toughness today. That’s what’s been lacking this year. It’s mental focus, being focused and locked in. That’s the one factor that has made us not win as many games as we’re used to, and that’s toughness.”
Senior Eric Tyler knows there’s still plenty of baseball to be played.
“Anything can happen down in Clearwater, we’ve seen that,” said Tyler. “We are just hoping to keep playing good baseball and gather momentum. We think we’ve got a chance if we can get on a hot streak — we know we can play with anybody.”
ECU can play with anybody, and beat anybody on any given day. The team’s toughness has been questioned this season, but these Pirates hope they pass their final “toughness test” later on in May.