East Carolina’s last baseball venture to Louisville in 2005 produced a 3-game sweep for the Pirates in a Conference USA series. That was the year the Cardinals opened Jim Patterson Stadium, site of the pending Super Regional which features ECU and the Cardinals.
Games in the best-of-three format are scheduled for noon today, 3 p.m. on Saturday and, if necessary, at noon on Sunday.
The Pirates are 11-3 all-time against the Cardinals, but since the matchups in C-USA, Louisville has undergone changes for the better. The Cards moved to the Big East Conference for the 2006 season. In coach Dan McDonnell’s first season in 2007, Louisville made the first of four trips to the College World Series under the guidance of the former player and coach from The Citadel.
The Cards also made the Omaha field in 2013, 2014 and 2017.
Louisville played one season in the American Athletic Conference in 2014 and moved to the ACC prior to the 2015 season, the same year that ECU transitioned to the AAC.
McDonald is manager this year for the Team USA collegians, who will host Cuba at several venues in North Carolina next month.
Pirates coach Cliff Godwin was on the Team USA staff of Paul Mainieri of LSU in 2018. That team included current Pirates Jake Agnos and Bryant Packard. That group went 12-3 overall, including a series in Cuba.
Louisville’s pitching coach is former Greenville Rose High School standout Roger Williams, who was an All-ACC choice as a hurler at North Carolina in 1984 and 1985. Williams returned to Greenville as pitching coach on Gary Overton’s staff and earned his undergraduate degree in physical education from ECU in 1992. He got a master’s in education at ECU in 1993.
Overton recruited Godwin to ECU from Greene Central.
Williams’ dad, George Williams, was coach of the Pirates from 1974 to 1976. George Williams compiled a 56-33 overall record. The Pirates were 23-13 in the Southern Conference during that span, winning the league and making the NCAA field in 1974.
Staying in the moment
Godwin redshirted one year and played for Keith LeClair. He wears the No. 23 that belonged to LeClair. After LeClair passed away from Lou Gehrig’s disease, the jersey was awarded annually to a player who exemplified LeClair’s qualities. Since returning to the Pirates as coach before the 2015 season, Godwin has worn the number. He has said the No. 23 jersey will be retired when the Pirates make the College World Series, which was LeClair’s goal for the program as coach.
Godwin doesn’t want his players to feel the pressure of realizing LeClair’s dream.
“They want it so bad because of Coach LeClair,” Godwin said.
LeClair’s wife and daughter were at the regional Sunday.
“I couldn’t even look them in the eye, because I want it so bad for them,” Godwin said Monday. “It is what it is. … This isn’t about the other however many teams have been to regionals and Super Regionals and not been to Omaha. This is their team. This is the 2019 team. This is their story. It’s not my story. It’s not the ’09 team’s story or the 2016 story. It’s bot the ’01 team that I was on.
“Nobody knows this place better than I do. I played here. I just want them to lay it on the line like they did this weekend.”
Godwin gave the team a day off on Tuesday.
The Pirates (47-16) are promised two more games.
“Prepare like we have all year,” Packard said of his thoughts on the upcoming series. “Obviously, going to a Super Regional is one step and we’re just going to do what we did all season. We harp on taking it one step at a time. Preparing, not doing anything stupid and stay in the present moment.”
Avent says seed entire field
Second-seeded N.C. State fell 5-4 to third-seeded Campbell in the first round of the Greenville regional. The Camels, regular season and tournament champions in the Big South Conference, had split regular season games with State. Geography is more of a factor it appears than relative strength in the placement of teams in the initial segment of the tournament.
N.C. State coach Elliott Avent favors seeding the entire field for the NCAA baseball tournament as is currently done in basketball.
“Until they start seeding all the teams throughout the 64, which is what we all think baseball has to come to. Until they start doing that and even when they do, like they do in basketball, … how many 10-7 upsets do you see, how many 12-5s in the NCAA basketball tournament. Nine-eight, flip a coin.
“One of the answers is to seed everybody in the tournament, which has to be done. Until they do that, you’re going to see a lot of (upsets). I think it was like 13-3 — 13 three seeds won on the first day. A lot of national seeds are facing elimination …
“Baseball, anybody beats anybody, but to get it more accurate, I think you’ve got to seed everybody.”
Top seeds’ advantage limited
ECU was the visiting team for the first game against Campbell on Monday, due to NCAA
regulations, which are designed to minimize the home field advantage for the host teams and top seeds.
“The NCAA does an unbelievable job of making it as fair as possible,” said ECU coach Cliff Godwin. “It’s no accident that more one seeds lose at home than ever before because it is as neutral, if not un-neutral to the home team as possible. It’s unbelievable. You look back 10 or 15 years ago, the one seeds won every time. Last year, four national seeds didn’t get out of their own regional. It’s unbelievable because you can’t use your locker room. You can’t use your team room. I think it’s unbelievable the measures they go to. It’s almost better to go on the road and be a two seed.”
Former teammates flourishing
Former East Carolina players from the Godwin era at ECU (1998-2001) have their teams in Super Regionals. Former Pirate third baseman Bryant Ward (1999-2002) roomed with Godwin and is now at No. 1 national seed UCLA as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator.
The Bruins will host Michigan in a Super Regional. The Wolverines are coached by Erik Bakich, who played at ECU in 199-2000, the same span as Michigan infielders coach Nick Schnabel.
The Pirates lead off the NCAA Tournament on ESPN2 today. UCLA takes on Michigan at 9 p.m. (Eastern time), also on the deuce.