Media members and Pirate fans have worried this week about the quick turnaround for East Carolina baseball — just three days rest between the pandemonium of the Greenville Regional and the opening game of the Super Regional in Louisville.
But listen to the players who spoke to the media Wednesday morning before boarding a plane bound for Kentucky, and it’s clear that they aren’t overly concerned. A little down time is important, but to them, this postseason run is a bit like a surfer catching a massive wave and looking to immediately connect with the next one.
“We’re ready to roll, man,” said ECU junior Bryant Packard. “It doesn’t matter. We just kind of look at it as, win or go home, we’re guaranteed two more games, so we just want to keep on playing, keep on doing it for each other and this fan base.”
“We had probably the shortest turnaround ever, playing four games in two days, so I don’t think this is anything we can’t handle,” said pitcher Jake Agnos, the projected starter for Friday’s noon game against the Cardinals.
If the regional weekend, with its 24-hour weather delay and first-game loss, reminded the Pirates of anything, it’s the fact that this team often shines the brightest when the terrain is the rockiest.
Not only did ECU defy the odds by climbing out of the loser’s bracket to the top of the regional, they underlined that effort by outscoring opponents 44-11 on Sunday and Monday.
“It was a very strenuous weekend,” said junior Spencer Brickhouse. “But in the end, we’re built for that. We have the toughness, and we go through a lot of hard workouts in the fall and in the spring so we can adjust to whatever schedule is thrown at us. You remember last year, at the conference tournament, we had all those 9 a.m. games? We try to take any type of adversity and use it to our advantage.”
Of course, Louisville had its share of struggles last weekend too, losing its first game just like the Pirates did and losing its closing pitcher in a nonsensical suspension. But the Pirate players are banking on the fact that even on the road they are playing their brand of baseball at the top of their game, and when the bats and the pitches are all hitting their targets these players believe that their climb to Omaha will continue.
“I feel like our bats really clicked,” said sophomore Alec Burleson. “Just to be able to put runs up like that, like we did early in the season and the middle of the season, was awesome. If we keep doing that , and our pitching keeps doing what they’re doing, we’re going to be really hard to beat.”
After getting settled in on Wednesday, head coach Cliff Godwin said the team would practice for ninety minutes on Thursday (the amount of time allowed by the NCAA), but the pace would be easy until Game One rolls around on Friday.
At this point, Godwin and several of his players said, it is less about the Louisville personnel they will be facing and more about the steadiness of a team that hopes its fortunes are still on the rise.
In other Pirate baseball news and notes:
- Seven Pirates — Packard, Agnos, Brickhouse, Trey Benton, Evan Voliva, Turner Brown and Jake Washer — were selected in the Major League Baseball draft Tuesday or Wednesday. After quick celebrations, they put thoughts of the far-off future aside in favor of the Super Regional just ahead. “I can’t do anything about it right now,” said Agnos. “We have to take care of business, and I don’t want this weekend to be my last weekend at ECU.”
- Agnos’s selection in the fourth round by the New York Yankees took a sentimental turn when he called his grandfather to tell him the news. “My grandpa moved here when he was eighteen from Greece in the ‘40s, and that was where he came through, so he’s been a Yankees fan ever since,” he said.
- Packard was selected seven picks after Agnos, so Agnos has taken a few opportunities to give his teammate grief. “He thinks he’s cool because he’s got more money than me,” Packard said.
- Both Godwin and Agnos confirmed that the coach gave the Pirates’ ace the go-ahead to pitch on Friday if Agnos feels rested enough to go. “He said if I feel good enough, which I do, I’ll be going Friday,” Agnos said.
- Freshman Lane Hoover, who has the third highest batting average on the team despite the fact that he has been out for three weeks with a shoulder injury, is healthy and ready to take the field this weekend.