East Carolina baseball officially opened practice this past weekend.
Sunday’s rain limited the scrimmage schedule to just a pair for this first weekend. Every practice and every bit of work in game-like conditions is crucial with the regular season set to begin on February 16th against Western Carolina.
This weekend’s ‘live’ looks were the first time the Pirate hitters had faced actual pitching since last fall’s Purple-Gold World Series.
“I thought things went well,” said fourth-year ECU coach Cliff Godwin. “We went six innings on Friday and then ten on Saturday because of the impending weather on Sunday.”
Weather is always a question mark, especially early in the baseball practice schedule.
“We did get a lot of work in, but we still have plenty to do,” Godwin said. “There are several situations that we want our players to really feel comfortable with, and that just takes time and practice.”
The Pirates return 20 letter winners, including 2016 Freshman All-American Dwanya Williams-Sutton, 2017 Freshman All-American Spencer Brickhouse and 2017 AAC All-Tournament Team selection Jake Agnos.
Godwin is also blessed to have four starters with weekend experience. Last year’s injuries will strengthen this year’s team because of the experience those players unexpectedly received.
Last year’s bad luck should pay dividends this season.
“We have Trey Benton, who has the ability to be a Friday night starter,” Godwin said. “We have Jake Agnos, who has the ability to be a Friday night starter. Chris Holba also has the ability to go on Friday night, as does Tyler Smith. All those guys pitched in the weekend rotation at some point last season so we’re excited to see those guys.”
Intense competition at many positions will continue to play out as opening day draws closer.
“There are some battles, but that’s always the case this time of they year,” said Godwin.
Each pitcher got in two innings of work in the pair of scrimmage games this past weekend. That number will increase for the starters to three or four innings, depending on the pitch count this weekend.
“I think our guys understand that [pitching coach] Dan [Roszel] has a plan for the pitchers, and I have a plan for the position players and they trust in that plan,” Godwin said.
The diamond is not the only place where Godwin measures progress.
“Our mission every year is to always grow on and off the field,” Godwin said. “We want to improve at baseball, but we also want to be better people. Our motto this year is, ‘It’s not about you… it’s about us.’ We want our players to be selfless. It’s a matter of toughness over talent. We had that our first year and now that we have talent, we still need that toughness to battle through a long season.”
Tickets are still available for the 2018 Pirate Baseball Banquet inside Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum on February 10th. It will be my privilege to once again serve as emcee for the event.
Greenville Mayor and ECU alum P.J. Connelly and former Pirate reliever Cory Scott will serve as keynote speakers for the banquet, which has proven to be very popular with Pirate baseball fans since Coach Godwin’s arrival at ECU.
Both Connelly and Scott were a part of great Pirate teams during their time. Connelly helped the Pirates to an 88-39 two-year record along with a pair of NCAA Regional berths and a 2004 Columbia Super Regional appearance.
Scott was a part of a two-year record of 92-34 which included a pair of Colonial Athletic Association Tournament titles. He was a part of two No. 1 NCAA Regional seeds under ECU Hall of Fame Coach Keith LeClair.
I hope to see you at the banquet. Coach Godwin and the Pirates put on a first class event to kick-off the new baseball season. I guarantee you’ll enjoy the night.