East Carolina (22-6) has won 10 straight games. The last loss was March 12 by a 7-2 margin to Duke at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Since then, the Pirates seem to have found themselves. The streak includes a 6-1 win over the Blue Devils on Wednesday night at Clark-LeClair Stadium.
“I thought we played very good,” said ECU coach Cliff Godwin of the most recent outing. “Ryder Giles gave us a good start. We were hoping that he could give us two or three (innings). He got in a little trouble in the second and was able to pitch out of a jam. He gave us three innings.”
Trey Benton was credited with the win in the second matchup with Duke.
“Trey Benton was phenomenal out of the bullpen,” Godwin said. “Sam Lanier was phenomenal. Zach Barnes, Cam Colmore. (Evan Odum). Our pitching was fantastic. I thought we played really good defense.”
The Pirate pitchers combined for 12 strikeouts.
“Offensively, the guy they threw (Cooper Stinson) was really good. He’s a weekend rotation guy, not right now but he has good stuff. He’s up to 94 (miles per hour), good slider. Good split. He kind of kept us off balance.
“Brady Lloyd hit a home run (in the fifth inning). We ended up putting three runs up that inning and three the next. I thought, offensively, we made the most of our opportunities. Just really, overall, a well-played game.”
Big bats get healthy
Godwin said one aspect of the winning streak has been the return of some important players who have overcome ailments.
“(Spencer) Brickhouse, (Alec) Burleson and (Bryant) Packard are healthy,” Godwin said. “Everybody wants to make a big deal about us starting out 8-5 but at the end of the day you’ve got to have three of your best players in the lineup. We’ve just got more cohesion with the entire team. We’ve gotten closer to one another.
“We figured out a rotation. We figured out our bullpen. It has continued to evolve. We’ve really just become closer to one another. There’s no magic wand. None of us were panicking. Some people outside our locker room were panicking. None of us were but we were focused on getting a little bit better every day.”
Confidence with momentum
ECU has some momentum going into an American Athletic Conference series at Houston that gets started tonight at 7:35 p.m.
“I don’t think this team has ever lacked for confidence at any stage,” Godwin said. “There might be an individual that has been in a slump either on the mound or offensively that has maybe lacked a little confidence but as a group, it’s a pretty confident group.
“At times, I feel like maybe they’re too confident where they kind of let their guard down. The past month they’ve done a really good job of just staying in the present moment and focusing on whatever we’re doing that day.”
Freshmen step in
Despite losing some significant personnel from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, Godwin asserted that the coaches had done their homework on the recruiting trail. Several freshmen have stepped in and contributed immediately to validate that claim.
“Ryder (Giles) has done a tremendous job at third base for us,” Godwin said. “He’s played an unbelievable defensive third base. He’s also done some relief work, which has been great.
“(Thomas) Francisco provides a left-handed power bat in the lineup. He’s been swinging the bat well.
“Lane Hoover has kind of solidified the two hole a little bit. He plays center. He plays right. A tough out. He’s a smaller guy so he’s tough to throw strikes to, so he gets his walks, doesn’t strike out much. When you’re sandwiched between Packard and Brickhouse, you’re going to see decent pitches. If he gets on base, then Brickhouse can drive him in.”
Bryant Packard had grand slams in successive games in an ECU sweep at South Florida last weekend, evidence that the AAC preseason Player of the Year had overcome an early season injury.
“When Packard is healthy, he’s hitting the ball hard regardless of what you see in the box score,” Godwin said. ” … Like Brickhouse (Wednesday) night, he lines out as hard as you can hit a ball to second base. Lane Hoover gets doubled off. That goes down as 0-for-1. Then he hits a ball as hard as you can hit it to center field where the center fielder makes an unbelievable catch at the wall in his last at-bat. You look at the box score and he’s 0-for-3 with a walk. We’ll, he crushed the ball.
“Anybody who wasn’t at the game, you look down there and he’s 0-for-3. Packard has swung the bat really good for the past month as have ‘Brick’ and ‘Burley’ and some other guys. Sometimes you look at batting average, which we don’t look at, and it looks like they’re not swinging it well when in reality they just hit a lot of balls hard, right at people.”
Keys vs. Houston
The keys this weekend aren’t complicated.
“Playing East Carolina baseball, doing what we do,” Godwin said. “Take care of us. … We’re just going to focus on getting to Houston and having a good practice. Once we do that, we’ll start looking towards them a little bit.”
Godwin was asked to define East Carolina baseball.
“I want our guys to show up with intent and energy, and stay in the present moment,” Godwin said.
Houston’s home field has a synthetic surface.
“It’s an all-turf field but in reality that doesn’t really change anything,” Godwin said. “The surface is different, but the bases are still 90 feet apart. The pitcher’s mound is 60 feet, six inches away from home plate.”
The ECU coach said he will stay with the weekend rotation that has helped the No. 11 Pirates to a 6-0 start in the AAC.
“We’re going to go (Jake) Agnos, (Tyler) Smith, (Jake) Kuchmaner,” Godwin said.
The Pirates shaved facial hair earlier this week after a fundraising effort to combat ALS, which claimed the life of former ECU baseball coach Keith LeClair.
“We shaved off the mustaches on Monday,” Godwin said. “We’ve raised over $11,000 for Mustache March with Michigan baseball and Memphis baseball. We’re really happy that we reached our goal. We raised a ton of awareness for Lou Gehrig’s disease and raised a lot of money as well.”