Duke has not beaten East Carolina in baseball since 1998, a streak of 17 wins for the Pirates that was extended Tuesday night with a 9-2 victory for ECU at Jack Coombs Field in Durham.
Pirates coach Cliff Godwin has contributed to the success against the Blue Devils as a player going back to the outset of the streak and most recently as coach at ECU.
Chris Pollard became Duke’s coach in 2012 after guiding programs at Pfeiffer and Appalachian State. The Blue Devils currently are ranked as high as No. 3 nationally.
“Coach Pollard has been successful wherever he’s been,” Godwin said. “He’s finally got the guys in there that he’s recruited and he has his system in place. They do a pretty good job of recruiting nationally.”
The Pirates were coming off an Ameican Athletic Conference series loss to South Florida but Godwin said there were no major adjustments before the game at Duke.
“We just regrouped and kept doing what we had been doing all year,” said the ECU coach. “That’s just being where our feet are.
“We didn’t play our best baseball Saturday and Sunday against South Florida but our guys have done a good job this year. They have worked really hard. They just came out and played really well.”
ECU began the streak against Duke in Godwin’s redshirt freshman year as a player. He has some memories of the series as a player.
“I can’t remember if it was 2000 or 2001 when we played them here and I hit two home runs,” Godwin said. “It’s tough to forget those. One game I caught, I think it was ’99 or 2000 and we no-hit them. I think it was the first game of the season. Foye Minton and Davey Penny, I think were the two pitchers.”
A balk call in a situation where ECU appeared to have a Bulls runner picked off in a 5-4 loss to the Bulls on Sunday was a factor in the outcome. The USF baserunner subsequently scored a run in a one-run win.
“If you put the game in the umpire’s hands, sometimes it can come back to bite you,” Godwin said. “We just didn’t play well enough. Obviously, that call didn’t help us out but we just didn’t do enough to win.”
A forearm injury had sidelined freshman right-hander Gavin Williams, but he has returned to active status and closed out the win at Duke on the mound.
“Gavin is a special talent,” Godwin said. “We had planned on using him in the back end in the bullpen. He pitched really well against North Carolina and he got an injury in that game. He missed five weeks and other guys had pitched really well.
“We’ve kind of had to maneuver through it and get him back out there but he really pitched well [Tuesday] night. Not that it was a save opportunity but for him to come in . . . He actually threw three pitches for strikes. Everybody knows he’s got a hard fast ball. He threw his change-up and breaking ball for strikes on Tuesday night.”
Trey Benton has struggled in the weekend rotation for the Pirates lately and Jake Agnos turned in a solid start at Duke.
“Jake will not start this weekend,” Godwin said. “He will be in the bullpen this weekend.”
ECU’s starters this weekend will be Chris Holba tonight, left-hander Alec Burleson on Saturday and Tyler Smith on Sunday.
“Like all pitchers, there are times when you go through a spell when you don’t pitch great,” Godwin said. “Trey is going to be fine. He was the Friday night starter for the first five weeks of the season. He still has some of the best stuff on our staff. We’ve got to be able to utilize him in some capacity. He’ll be fine.”
Caution on Memphis
Memphis is 13-25 overall and 1-8 in the AAC.
“Coach [Daron] Schoenrock has done a really good job with those guys,” Godwin said. “Their conference record isn’t good, but I can tell you they will play good baseball against us. We just need to worry about ourselves and go out there and play the best we can. If we play well, we’ll have a good chance to win. If we don’t, we’ll have a good chance to lose. It’s pretty simple.”
Dwanya Williams-Sutton has come back after being sidelined with a wrist ailment and has continued to battle impairments in providing a boost for the Pirates.
“I’ve been really proud of Dwanya,” Godwin said. “He banged his back up on that really good catch on Saturday. I didn’t think he would be able to play on Sunday.
“He’s got some sort of sickness going on. He was throwing up during the game [Tuesday].”
Despite his illness, Williams-Sutton had three hits and three stolen bases in the Duke game.
“We’ve been battling throughout the team, it’s like a 24-hour virus, something that’s just running through our team,” Godwin said. “It’s like a different guy has it every day.
“This past weekend, Dusty Baker and Jake Washer didn’t even come to the game on Saturday. Bryant Packard had it on Sunday, even though he played. Dwanya had something like that [Tuesday] night. I’m hoping that it gets out of here.”