East Carolina welcomed some 600 fans to the new ECU Student Center on Saturday night to unofficially open the baseball season.
Fans stood in a long line to get autographs and to check out the many silent auction items. All of the proceeds from the big night went right back to Pirate baseball.
Guests included Chancellor Cecil Staton, new ECU Director of Athletics Jon Gilbert and Special Advisor to the Chancellor Dave Hart.
Greenville’s Harry Smith, the Chairman of the UNC Board of Governors, was also in attendance.
ECU head coach Cliff Godwin received a standing ovation when he took to the podium to introduce the 2019 squad. He certainly wasn’t expecting such a reception and got emotional for just a second before he started his part of the program.
The banquet was a combination of celebrating the past season and the American Athletic Conference championship and getting set for a new year which starts this Friday.
Each player came to the microphone and introduced himself to the huge crowd.
Bryant Packard, Jake Agnos and Turner Brown all shared their own thoughts about what life was like as a baseball player in the Pirate program.
Agnos had the crowd in stitches when he talked about one of his ‘bad’ outings during his freshman year. He said that after the game Coach Godwin sat on the ground and got into the fetal position. He told Jake and the team that’s how Agnos had pitched that day.
Agnos wasn’t mad at his coach. He said it wasn’t funny then, but he learned from it and grew from the experience.
My words don’t do the story justice at all. It was hilarious.
It was also refreshing to hear how a young athlete took to the ‘tough love’ approach from a coach. In this society where everyone is offended by every little thing, Jake’s honesty riveted with the crowd.
You’ll recall that Agnos joined his coach on that U.S. National team last summer.
Tough love sometimes goes a long way.
East Carolina announced the team’s starting rotation on Monday.
Lefty Alec Burleson will get the opening day start. Burleson is one of the top two-way players in the country. He was a freshman All-American last season by Collegiate Baseball. He appeared in 19 games last year, going 5-2 with four saves. ECU posted a 6-2 record in his eight starts.
On Saturday, the Pirates will send out another lefthander in Agnos, a junior. Agnos was most impressive with that national team this past summer. He allowed 32 runs on 61 hits last season. Agnos earned wins against Charleston, No. 3 Duke, Elon and No. 20 Central Florida last year. He picked up his only save versus Tulane in the AAC Tournament in Clearwater, FL, last May.
On Sunday, Tyler Smith returns to the weekend rotation. Smith has a 9-1 career record in 41 appearances. He has 60 strikeouts in 104 innings. Heading into his junior campaign, Smith ranks among ECU’s all-time leaders in fewest runs allowed, fewest earned runs and fewest hits allowed in a career.
The best part about this trio is what’s left in the bullpen. The pitching depth is perhaps this team’s biggest asset.
Trey Benton, Gavin Williams, Matt Bridges, Sam Lanier, Jake Kuchmaner and Evan Voliva, plus others, give Godwin and company plenty of options both out of the pen and for weekday games.
Hopefully, the weather will cooperate this weekend, but we all know it’s February.
Still it’s also baseball season and that’s always an exciting time at ECU. First pitch against the visiting Radford Highlanders is Friday at 4 p.m.