East Carolina is in the midst of seven straight games on the road. The Pirates, ranked as high as No. 8, have won four in a row away from the supportive environment at Clark-LeCair Stadium.
The latest win was a 9-5 conquest of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, no small feat considering the No. 12 Tar Heels were 29-3 at Boshamer Stadium going into the game.
UNC starter Andrew Grogan came in with a 4-1 record and a 0.87 earned run average in ACC games.
ECU coach Cliff Godwin saw his club score six runs in the top of the first inning in winning for the 12th time in the last 13 games.
“I just thought our offensive approach was really good against one of their better arms,” Godwin said. “To start out going up 2-0, then (Jake) Washer’s big grand slam, I thought that was just really tough for them to have to fight back from.”
The Pirates are 21-4 at home this season and 16-7 on the road heading into an American Athletic Conference series at Wichita State that gets underway tonight at 7 p.m.
“We say this a lot, but you’ve got to take it one game at a time,” Godwin said. “It’s seven straight on the road, but I haven’t thought about it. I just look at the next game on the schedule and say, ‘Hey, we need to get ready for whoever we’re playing,’ and that’s what you do. Our guys have done a really good job of staying in the present moment, not worrying about where we’re playing or who we’re playing.”
The Pirates dropped three games at No. 1 UCLA on April 12-13, but still built on the experience.
“We were more than competitive,” Godwin said. “We had two leads in the first two games. UCLA was unanimous and still is as the No. 1-ranked team in the country. Anytime we gave them a crack of opportunity, they made us pay for it. If we made a mistake, they made us pay for it. It really just showed us when you play one of the best teams in the country, if you give them a window of opportunity, they’re going to take advantage of it.
“Our guys came out of there with a lot of confidence as well because if they’re No. 1, then we felt like we played them really good for three games.”
Junior right-hander Trey Benton will be out of action for the remainder of the 2019 season.
Benton was 4-0 with a 4.01 earned run average.
“Trey will not pitch the rest of the year,” Godwin said. “We don’t know exactly what the injury is. We just know that we’re going to be cautious and not pitch him anymore this year.”
The situation is tough on multiple levels.
“No. 1, It’s a tough blow for Trey personally,” Godwin said. “Trey wants to be out there competing. He’s put so much into our program. No. 2, it is a blow to our team. Like I told our team and Trey, if this would have happened last year at this time, we wouldn’t have been able to win the conference tournament because Trey had to go out there I know at least two or three times in jams and get us out of it.
“We do have more depth. Obviously, we would be deeper if we had him, but we don’t and it’s way better this year than it was last year.”
ECU is No. 3 nationally in the ratings power index (RPI). That ranking would put the Pirates in position to host a regional and Super Regional in the NCAA Tournament.
“I’m not on the committee,” Godwin said. “I just know that up to this point we’ve put together a pretty good resume. We’ve just got to focus on getting one percent better each day and taking care of what we can control and that’s how we play. We can’t control anything of a committee or anything else so we’re just going to keep staying in the present moment.
“If the season ended right now, we’re in great shape aren’t we? But the season doesn’t end right now. We’ve just got to keep playing good baseball and just keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
Godwin is no longer tugging on the bill of his cap, swiping his chest or rubbing a hand down the opposite arm. That’s not how the Pirates do signals anymore. It’s all in the three numbers the ECU coach calls out to batters and the cards the Pirate players wear of their wrists.
“It’s just made it easier for our guys, instead of having to worry about knowing signs, like the old school way,” Godwin said. “I’m pretty much a traditionalist. It was something like, ‘I’ll never do this,’ but go back to the ’16 team, Garrett Brooks. At practice, he could do the signs. Then, in the game, it became a stress to him, so we went to the cards. We didn’t miss one sign that year. Garrett had his best year offensively, just because it took the pressure from having to memorize signs.
“It’s a number system and they have an abbreviation on their card. My card is different from theirs. I’ll give them three numbers, then they look down. Basically, it’s two numbers at the top, one number down the left side. They just connect the dots and whatever is in that box, that’s the sign.
“Coach (Dan) Roszel (pitching coach and (catchers) (Jake) Washer and Seth’s (Caddell) sheets are a little bit different, but similar.”
The Pirates have produced some outstanding grade point averages under Godwin’s leadership but school is out for the spring semester of 2019.
“It’s just baseball now,” Godwin said. “It can be good and bad. The one thing I always worry about is that their minds shut off during the day. I think it’s good for you to have to actually lock in on something because when they get to practice they’ve had focus on something. So we’ve talked about that a lot. The stress of them having to stay up late and study is definitely gone, but we’ve just got to make sure that they’re still using their mind because in anything, you have to use your mind to be successful.
“If you just turn your mind off 24/7, we’re going to be in trouble.”
The Pirates left Thursday morning from Raleigh-Durham. The team had a weight lifting session and a short practice scheduled after arriving on Thursday at Wichita.
“We’ll play Friday, Saturday, Sunday and come back Sunday,” Godwin said. “We stayed up here (Triangle) (Wednesday) night. This is our first time (playing at Wichita State). They’ve got a really nice park. It’s all turf.”