East Carolina used five pitchers in a 5-4 win at UNC-Wilmington on Wednesday night, sweeping the regular-season series with the Seahawks after a 6-4 win in Greenville on April 3. Sophomore left-hander Jake Agnos got the start.
‘I really thought our bullpen pitched well again,” Pirates coach Cliff Godwin said. “Zach Barnes, Ryan Ross, Trey Benton and Davis Kirkpatrick. … I thought we really showed a lot of toughness. Andrew Henrickson has got the flu or something, so he wasn’t able to play until later in the game. He was scheduled to start and had to come out of the game.”
Godwin thought Henrickson would be available to this weekend’s American Athletic Conference home series with Cincinnati. The first game of the AAC set is tonight at 6:30.
“I just thought our guys showed a lot of resilience, a lot of toughness to be able to just get a tough win on the road,” said Godwin.
The Pirates (35-12, 11-7 AAC) took a 9-1 win over Norfolk State in Greenville on Tuesday night with five pitchers seeing action, including Jake Kuchmaner, Gavin Williams, West Covington, Willy Strong and Cole Beavin.
The most recent wins are testimony to ECU’s pitching depth.
“We’ve talked about that a lot this year,” Godwin said. “We’re deeper on the mound than we ever have been before since I’ve been here. We needed every arm we had these two midweek games.”
State of college baseball
A crowd of 1,727 was on hand at UNCW. The Pirates are averaging 2,849 fans for home games this season, which ranks 22nd nationally.
The ECU coach says interest in the college game is surging.
“It’s definitely growing,” Godwin said. “Every year, you’ve seen attendance records broken. The excitement for college baseball is definitely continuing to grow. A lot of it has to do with just getting more televised, whether it’s on the ESPN platforms or being able to go to our website and watch us when when we’re playing. Definitely, the excitement has grown..
“I think baseball is in a good spot. What’s going on right now is really good.”
There are issues from Godwin’s perspective.
“Some of the rules that have been put in place, recruiting-wise, I don’t know if they’re good for our sport,” he said. “That’s why people make them I guess. They’re trying to make it better but I don’t know if that’s the best thing for us, moving forward.
“In the middle of the season, the NCAA changed the rules where you can’t have sophomores and freshmen come to your games and watch the games. You can’t interact or have any contact with them. They can still call you on the phone. It’s a little weird. They can call you on the phone, but you can’t talk to them face to face. I don’t understand. If you’re going to make a rule like that why would you let them be able to call you on the phone.
“It is what it is. I think sometimes they make the rules because other sports do it and our sport is different. If you’re not in our sport day to day then you don’t understand the ramifications it may have when you make a decision like that.”
Going into the final seven games of the regular season, the Pirates, ranked as high as No. 10 nationally, would appear to be candidates to host a regional in the NCAA Tournament.
“To be honest, the media is starting to talk about this a lot,” Godwin said. “I want our guys to be where their feet are. Right now, we just need to focus on us, focus on getting ready for Cincinnati and everything else will take care of itself.
“We’ve done a good job. We’ve played well up until this point. Let’s just continue to play good baseball. What I tell our guys is ‘Don’t worry about who you’re plying, let’s just put our best foot forward every single day.’ When we have done that, the results have taken care of themselves.”
Exclusive focus on baseball
The Pirates were in the midst of exams and did not have Friday starter Chris Holba (9-0) when they were swept by Houston in a home series April 27-29.
ECU has a five-game winning streak since exams were completed.
“I’d be lying to say it’s not less stressful when you’re not in school because we put such a premium on what our guys do in the classroom,” Godwin said. “It’s definitely a stress when they’re having to worry about exams, having to worry about finishing strong in the classroom.
“They’re getting more sleep now, being able to focus on just baseball.”
No numbers have been released on academic performance for the spring term.
“I know we did really well in the classroom,” Godwin said. “I know that it’s probably going to be the highest GPA (grade point average) that we’ve ever had in the spring semester. I don’t know the specifics of it yet.”
Holba, who ranks fifth nationally in wins, will toe the rubber tonight.
“We’re going to go (Chris) Holba, (Alec) Burleson, for sure,’ Godwin said. “Tyler Smith is most likely going to pitch on Sunday.”
Randleman vs. Greene Central
East Carolina catcher Jake Smith was presented the Johnny Bench Award by the Hall of Famer and former Cincinnati Reds great at the ninth annual Greater Wichita Sports Banquet in 2006. Jeff Kunkel of Michigan and Eddy Rodriguez of Miami were other finalists for the award.
Godwin was also a catcher during his playing career at ECU.
Smith is now the baseball coach at Randleman (21-5), which hosts Greene Central (12-10), Godwin’s alma mater, in the second round of the NCHSAA 2-A playoffs on Saturday at 6 p.m.
“They’ll have their hands full,” Godwin said. “I haven’t seen Greene Central play, but Randleman is pretty good.”