East Carolina never led in its 2-1 win over Elon on Wednesday until pinch runner Dwanya Williams-Sutton slid home with the deciding run with two out in the bottom of the ninth on a sacrifice fly by Drew Henrickson.
The Pirates had trailed since the Phoenix scored a run in the top of the first until Brady Lloyd’s RBI single on a full count pitch with two down in the sixth brought in Connor Litton with the tying run.
ECU, ranked as high as 17th nationally, improved to 13-4 going into a three-game series with Maryland that gets underway tonight at 6:30.
The Pirates were coming off a 3-0 home loss to Virginia Commonwealth on Tuesday.
“It shows a lot of toughness out of our guys,” Godwin said. “We’re not full strength. Anytime you have a five-game week, your pitching is a little bit thinner. Jake (Agnos) did a good job on Tuesday to give us a lot of quality innings. Then Ryan Ross — we only used two pitchers but still you’re a little bit thinner and starting a freshman (Jake Kuchmaner) on the mound (vs. Elon). All those factors, I just thought it showed a lot of toughness just because the guys battled. It was really tough conditions to hit the past two days.
“They could have felt sorry for themselves and just said, ‘Hey, we’re not going to score any runs,’ but they kept fighting and kept staying in it. We did enough to win.”
Godwin has developed depth in his fourth team at ECU.
“The guys have kind of bought in to just being a team,” Godwin said. “They don’t care what they hit. They don’t care what their ERA is. They just care about winning the game and they’ll do whatever helps the team to win. They guys have done a really good job of being selfless and just focusing on the team. I think that’s really hard to do in today’s society but our guys have done a good job of that.”
The Pirates have been dealing with some injuries but depth has allowed the team to remain competitive.
“Dwanya has a wrist injury,” Godwin said. “It’s nothing structurally wrong. He’s just got a strain so it’s going to take some time for it to get healthy and strengthen back up. I think he’ll miss a couple of weeks.
“Bryant Packard has been taking swings and he’s supposed to jog (Thursday). With a back injury, it’s just day to day. He could have a setback, but it feels good. We’re trying to take it slow to build it back up to be out there to play. I don’t think that you’ll see him this weekend. If you saw him this weekend, I’d be surprised, but hopefully next week. Turner Brown, you could see this weekend at some point in time. I don’t know if it will be (Friday), but at some point in time he should be back in the lineup.
“Gavin Williams will throw a bullpen (Friday) and we’ll see how he feels. Hopefully, next week, he’ll be able to throw an inning in some capacity. I don’t know if it would be in the middle of the week or the end of the week. Hopefully, he’ll be good to go. He’s felt great. We’re just trying to take him slow as well.
“Obviously, the kid’s health is the No. 1 thing for us. ”
The Pirates lead the series with Maryland, 13-6. The Terps bring a 9-7 record to Clark-LeClair Stadium.
The last meeting was a 4-3 ECU win in Greenville on March 6, 2016.
“Coach (Jeff) Palumbo and myself, it’s a collaborative effort,” Godwin said of scheduling. “We’re actually doing home and home with them. This year, they’re coming to us. Next year, we’ll go to them. Obviously, a very quality opponent . They’re in The Big Ten. They have done a really good job with their program.”
Although showers are in the forecast for Saturday, Godwin didn’t think the 4 p.m. start time would be adjusted.
“Probably not because the showers are kind of throughout the day,” he said. “You don’t want to move a game up with the same percentage chance. You have to time it to move it up so probably not.”
Godwin plans on using his recent weekend rotation.
“I can say that Trey Benton is going to pitch on Friday and Chris Holba is going to pitch on Saturday,” Godwin said.
The ECU game notes list Tyler Smith as the Sunday starter. That trio has a combined 9-1 record.
Senior Eric Tyler hit a team-high .343 last year but his spot at the hot corner had to be filled. Connor Litton was helping Cowley County in Kansas to the Junior College World Series in 2017.
“We were looking for a third baseman so Coach Palumbo went out and saw him play at the junior college,” Godwin said. “He came back and said, ‘Cliff, I think this is our guy. He’s a big kid. He’s physical. He has some pop in his bat. I think he’ll be able to play third base. With some work, I think he’s got a chance to be a premium defender at third base.’
“When all of the other stuff checks out, great kid, hard worker, good student, we bring him in on an official visit. … We sat down with him and his family and offered him a scholarship and here he is. A lot of the credit goes to Coach Palumbo for finding him and then getting him to campus so we could show him around and tell him why we would love for him to be a part of our program.
“He’s been a great fit and he’s played terrific, offensively and defensively. He’s a great personality in our dugout and the kids love it. He’s been a great addition all the way around.”
Litton is hitting .344 with two homers and has scored 10 runs.
Catcher Jake Washer has been in the program much longer but is just beginning to make his presence known with a .432 batting average.
“He’s a redshirt sophomore,” Godwin said. “This is his third year in our program. . . . It hasn’t been easy for Jake. He redshirts his freshman year, works hard and doesn’t play at all.
“Then last year at the end of the fall, he hurts his arm. That puts him behind as far as his throwing. He was actually becoming like a good back-up, a guy that we would catch in games. . . . That kind of put him back where it was kind of the middle of the season before he was 100 percent healthy to throw. The injury really slowed him down.
“He went out this summer and was an all-star in the Valley League. You talk about a guy who never put his head down and never complained. I’d ask him, ‘Hey, are you happy here,’ and “Coach, yeah, I want to contribute to the team.’ A lot of kids look up and they think it just happens overnight. You’re talking about a guy who’s worked for two-and-a-half years to put himself in a position to be an everyday player. Not only is he catching for us, he’s (the designated hitter) for us when he’s not catching. My hat’s off to him because he didn’t quit. He didn’t say, ‘I can’t do it here.’ He just kept working and he’s made himself one of the best players in the country.”
Washer had four RBIs in a series-clinching 12-0 win at North Carolina on Feb. 25.
“We were just out there trying to do our best to win baseball games,” Godwin said. “He’s an unbelievable worker and he’s earned everything he’s gotten in our program, which is awesome.
“No. 2, he’s a great leader. . . . He’s not always been the most vocal guy but he’s gotten out of his comfort zone this year and developed relationships with our pitchers. He knows what the difference in Trey Benton is vs. Jake Agnos vs. Chris Holba vs. Tyler Smith . . . — what their stuff does but also their personalities, which has made a huge difference as far as their relationship. He’s mentored Seth Caddell and helped Seth through the freshman process of just playing college baseball. He’s a great team leader. He’s been a great competitor. I’m just happy that he’s having success. He’s put in a lot of work for it.”
Facility enhancement from Walter Williams
The indoor hitting facility on the right field side of Clark-LeClair Stadium is supposed to be completed by Aug. 1. Construction is underway.
“We’re looking forward to that,” Godwin said. “It’s going to be a great facility.”
The Pirates coach said the cost will exceed $1 million.
“I’m not sure what the exact price will be,” Godwin said. “I’m so thankful for Walter Williams for donating the money and what a huge impact he’s been to our baseball program. He was a great friend of mine and somebody that I will miss dearly. He was a great supporter of ECU athletics. You’re talking about a guy who has given his life pretty much to ECU athletics and our university.
“I’m just so happy that’s going to get done. It will definitely be a part of the Walter Williams legacy.”
Williams passed away at age 88 earlier this month.
The new structure is going up where the outdoor hitting cages are now. When finished, the current road beside the stadium and practice football area will be moved out into part of what is currently a parking lot.
The Pirates will embark on American Athletic Conference play at Central Florida next Friday.
“To be honest, I haven’t really kept up with the league a whole lot,” Godwin said. “I see some scores periodically. I know UCF has played well. I know Wichita State has played well. It’s going to be a tough league. It doesn’t matter what the records are when they come in. UConn has got really good pitching.
“We’re going to worry about Maryland. We’ll worry about conference next weekend.”