East Carolina baseball coach Cliff Godwin spent a portion of his Memorial Day watching as pairings were announced for the NCAA Tournament. He wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.
“It’s always good when you’re working, because you played good enough to be playing in the postseason,” Godwin said.
The bracket show revealed the field for the Greenville regional. N.C. State plays Campbell at noon on Friday and the Pirates play Quinnipiac at 6 p.m. in the double-elimination event.
“Just excited that we’re hosting a regional,” Godwin said. “First time in school history to host regionals back-to-back on campus, so that’s awesome. Proud of our players, our coaches, our support staff. A lot of hard work has gone into putting yourself in position to host a regional again after last year’s.”
AAC Tournament perspective
After winning the American Athletic Conference with a record-setting 20-4 regular-season mark, ECU went 1-2 in the league tournament in Clearwater, FL.
“We played good one game, we played bad two games,” Godwin said Monday. “When you play bad, you get beat. When you play good, you have a better chance of winning.
“I think it was actually a blessing in disguise to get beat out early because we had some chinks in our armor. We needed to come home and practice. We had a good practice (Sunday). We’ll have another good, intense practice (Tuesday). Then Wednesday and Thursday will be shorter, but be intense.
“We needed to get back home and get back to work some.”
Wichita State was the No. 8 seed for the AAC Tournament. The Shockers sandwiched 6-2 and 12-5 wins around ECU’s 13-2 defeat of Houston in the league event.
“That’s the only team, other than UCLA, that won a series against us,” Godwin said. “We won the series there (2-1) and then they beat us twice in the tournament. They beat us three games to two. They just played better than we did.”
Rain significantly disrupted last year’s regional in Greenville, which was won by South Carolina. The forecast looks better this year.
“It’s baseball,” Godwin said. “You can talk about the weather as much as you want. We can’t control it. If God wants it to rain or thunderstorm, it’s going to rain or thunderstorm. And if He doesn’t, then it won’t. I can’t get caught up in stuff I can’t control. Our guys can’t do that either. You just have to play baseball when they say, ‘Play ball.’ That’s when you go out there. That’s how we have to handle it, this year as well.”
Value of playing at home
The Pirates are 24-5 at Clark-LeClair Stadium this year.
“You get to play in front of Pirate Nation,” Godwin said. “You get a great home field advantage. That’s why this place was built so we can do it. I was on two teams that were No. 1 seeds in a regional and had to go on the road. I’m just so happy that our guys get to play in front of Pirate Nation at least two more times.”
The Pirates were a No. 1 seed at LSU in 1999 and at Louisiana-Lafayette in 2000.
“It was definitely talks with a lot of people and I think Jim Ward was definitely a guy who was kind of spearheading it,” Godwin said of the fundraising effort that produced the present facility. “We wanted to play at home instead of having to go on the road. The teams that I played on were responsible for being very good and like, raising the money indirectly. Coach (Keith) LeClair and the coaches put a good product on the field. We kept winning. Pirate Nation got behind it and said, ‘Hey, let’s build a stadium so we can watch them play at home in the postseason.’
“We played the regional in Wilson in ’01. We were the seventh national seed. We played the regional in Wilson and won it, then lost the Super Regional to Tennessee in Kinston.”
A couple of Pirates should be back for the regional.
“I think Sam Lanier (right-handed pitcher) will be able to go this weekend,” Godwin said. “I’m about 90 percent sure of that. Lane Hoover has been moving around some. Hopefully, we’ll have him in some capacity. I don’t think he’ll be able to play outfield but maybe he can at least pinch run or something this weekend.”
Lanier has had some arm soreness.
“We’ve just been very cautious and making sure he’s throwing without pain,” Godwin said.
Hoover broke his clavicle in the Campbell game on May 14.
“He had surgery the next day,” Godwin said. “He had a metal plate put in there.”
Trey Benton, a starting pitcher, is not available.
“He had Tommy John surgery last week,” Godwin said.
Godwin said the starting rotation was to be determined later in the week.
“We haven’t decided yet,” Godwin said Monday of the pitching rotation for the regional. “We’ll look at the teams and we’ll decide then. … Everybody has good pitching this time of year.”
Lefty Jake Agnos (10-2, 2.00 ERA) normally starts on Friday in weekend series, but may be held back.
The Pirates picked up the intensity in workouts after the lackluster showing in the AAC Tournament.
“We had a good spirited practice (Sunday), very intense,” Godwin said. “Just get back to playing with a ton of energy and sprinting around the field, flying around the field. We really treated it like fall practice. (Sunday) was like fall practice. … Wednesday and Thursday will be shorter practices that will still be intense, but they will be much shorter.”
The keys for ECU are simple.
“It just means for us to do what we’ve done for the most part of this season,” Godwin said. “Just play our brand of baseball. There’s no secret to it. We’re not going to change anything. There are some things we need to tighten up. We worked on those things (Sunday). … We’ll work on them again (Tuesday) and be ready to go on Friday night.
“Really, it’s nothing about baseball. … It’s an aggressive mindset. You’ve got to be able to handle adversity, keep moving forward and not have bad body language. It’s stuff that the normal, average person probably doesn’t handle the best. We have to be better than that. It’s just little things like that we’ve addressed and we’ve handled.”
AAC Tournament attendance
There appeared to be a lot of empty seats at Spectrum Stadium for the AAC Tournament.
“That’s not the case,” Godwin said. “It’s just a bad view. All the people sit up under the shade. The tournament is not moving and for the people who say the tournament is not attended well, no, it’s not an SEC Tournament, that’s been in Hoover (Alabama) for over 20 years. You have a place and you have a conference that is stable, where the teams have not been transient and the American has been pretty stable for the past four years or five.
“But you’ve got to have a conference tournament at the same place where people know it’s going to be there. You’re putting a product on the field that is very good, which the American baseball conference is doing that. We’re in the top five every year, some years three. But you can’t just keep changing venues and think you’re going to have good crowds.
“Like if we had it here in Greenville, you’d have good crowds for our games. Nobody is going to come watch Cincinnati and Memphis play. They’ll travel their fans, but what are you going to have, 200 people here, 400?
“It just gets a bad rap on TV because people aren’t sitting down in the lower levels where the sun’s baking them. They’re sitting up top in the shade. … There’s a couple of thousand people there.”
Still, there will be more energy for the Pirates to feed off of at the regional.
“It’ll be packed for sure this weekend,” Godwin said. “It will be hopping, just like it was last year. I’m excited for our guys to play in a regional atmosphere. That’s why you come to East Carolina, to play in regionals at home. Pretty neat, like I said, for our guys to be able to do it, back-to-back.”
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