The most anticipated season in the history of East Carolina baseball begins on Friday.
The Pirates open the 2017 season with a three-game series against Southeastern Conference power Ole Miss.
The goal is Omaha. It is this year and it will be every year that Cliff Godwin heads the ECU program. Godwin is like the late Keith LeClair in the way he leads this program. These two men both know that Omaha and a trip to the College Baseball World Series is not just a possibility.
LeClair knew he could get the program to Omaha. Godwin knows it as well.
LeClair’s health cost him his shot at Omaha. Godwin got within 90 feet of that trip in just his second season at ECU.
Still, last year’s success doesn’t guarantee anything. Godwin knows that and I think this team does as well.
Godwin calls it the process. His Pirates have worked hard.
“They’re ready to go,” said Godwin. “I think that they are tired of listening to me and tired of playing one another and ready to play somebody else. I think the team has handled everything well. Definitely the older guys have focused on preparing each day and trying to get a little bit better and just being very consistent during practice.
I had the chance to watch Saturday’s scrimmage this past weekend for about 90 minutes. In that time I saw at least four absolute, defensive gems.
Godwin also pumped in loud music and had a video loop of the rowdy crowd that is a staple at Ole Miss home games. Godwin coached at Ole Miss from 2011 to 2014. The Rebels advanced to the College World Series in Omaha in Godwin’s final season in Oxford.
“It should be a great weekend down there,” said Godwin. “I checked the weather report and it looks like it’s going to be 65 degrees every single day. There should be some great crowds.”
Evan Kruczynski will get the start in the opener. This will be his third consecutive opening day start for East Carolina.
I first met Kruz on the Thursday afternoon before that first start his sophomore year against Virginia. The Cavaliers had finished second nationally to Vanderbilt and headed to Greenville as big favorites against the Pirates.
“I’ll never forget that start,” said Kruczynski. “I have a lot more confidence now and can’t wait to get the baseball on Friday.”
For the past two seasons Kruczynski has give the Pirates a chance to win in just about every one of his starts.
This team has better depth than last season. Still, one of the big keys will be if the Pirates can stay healthy.
The only casualty leading up to opening day is Bryce Harmon. Harmon has a wrist injury and will miss the first series. Other than that the Pirates appear to be ready to go.
I asked Cliff what was the key to winning this first series of the season.
“For us to go out there and play our best baseball,” Godwin said. “We need to pitch well. We need to play good defense and have quality at bats.”
One side note: the Cliff Godwin Show will air on WNCT-TV this season, starting March 12th. The show will air three more times during the season. It will be my privilege to host the show and I’m really looking forward to it.
I’m also looking forward to the start of the new season.
Godwin has a very experienced and talented baseball team. It should be an outstanding season.
It all begins this Friday down in Oxford, Mississippi.