East Carolina’s 14-1 and 12-0 Super Regional losses at Louisville were surprising.
The Pirates spent a lot of energy coming through the losers bracket in the Greenville regional and did not perform on the same level that characterized ECU’s 2019 season. The crowd support that helped the Pirates the previous week at Clark-LeClair Stadium was obviously not there as ECU was not granted a top eight seed by the NCAA Tournament selection committee, a factor that was questioned by coach Cliff Godwin.
The Pirates finished 47-18 overall and won the American Athletic Conference regular-season championship as well as the Greenville regional. ECU’s 20-4 record in the AAC was a league record for wins.
“The last two games are not going to define us,” Godwin said. “The scores are not representative of how good of a team we are or how bad of a team we are. We played our tails off in the regional and we were able to fight back from the losers bracket after game one.”
A 5-4 loss to Quinnipiac got the Pirates off on the wrong foot in the regional.
“Like I’ve said many times, we had a 7.5 percent chance to win the regional after we lost the first game,” Godwin said. “Our guys showed a tremendous amount of toughness to be able to navigate through that with really Trey Benton not throwing a pitch, obviously, and Sam Lanier throwing to two batters.
“If you’d said that, I would have said there would be no chance that we could do it just because I didn’t know if we had enough pitching, but the guys fought and we just didn’t have enough bullets in the gun for the Super Regional. Louisville is a very good team.
“It was a perfect storm. They’re fast and they know how to play on (synthetic) turf. The wind was blowing in so we couldn’t hit any balls out. It was just a perfect storm. Louisville deserved to win. They played better than us. They’re a great team.”
Former teammates of Godwin were matched up in the Michigan-UCLA Super Regional in Los Angeles.
“When you’ve got three teammates coaching in a Super Regional, it’s pretty cool,” Godwin said. “It’s tough to pull for either side when one side has Bryant Ward (UCLA assistant) on it and the other side has Erik Bakich (Michigan coach) and Nick Schnabel (Michigan assistant).
“I’m so excited for Erik and Nick and I feel for Bryant. I know what it feels like, but just happy that 23 will be represented in Omaha by Erik and Nick.”
Bakich wears No. 23, as does Godwin, to honor the memory of former ECU coach Keith LeClair.
Draftees moving on, ECU prepared
A total of seven ECU players were selected in the recent Major League Baseball draft.
The group included Jake Agnos (New York Yankees, fourth round), outfielder Bryant Packard (Detroit Tigers, fifth round), first baseman Spencer Brickhouse (Arizona, seventh round), right-handed pitcher Trey Benton (Cleveland, 15th round), right-hander Evan Voliva (New York Yankees, 18th round), shortstop Turner Brown (Colorado, 19th round) and catcher Jake Washer (Chicago Cubs, 29th round).
“Seven players drafted,” Godwin said. “The most ever in a single year (at ECU). Everybody is signing. They’ve done what they needed to do here. We knew they were signing. Before the season starts, we plan for it.
“I’ve told every player that’s come through my office that the machine keeps moving. The nameplates on the back of the jerseys won’t say Packard, Brickhouse and Brown and Washer, Agnos, Voliva or Benton but they’ll say (Thomas) Francisco and (Ryder) Giles and (Lane) Hoover and (Seth) Caddell. We’ll keep moving and we’ll keep moving our culture forward.
“Coach (Jeff) Palumbo, coach (Dan) Roszel and myself do a great job recruiting. We’ve prepared for this. We know what we need to do. We’ll keep getting better and be ready to go next year.”
Transition to pros
Godwin assists in the transition for players to the next level. For the most part, the future pros have representation in place.
“Everybody is different,” Godwin said. “It just depends on what type of prospect you are. Most of the higher-end guys like Jake, Pack, Trey and Brick, they have representation. Some of them have it when they come to college. Some of them have it after their freshman year. I just give them advice. … We just want them to have one really the fall of their junior year, so they don’t have to worry about it. We have times for the scouts to come in and meet with the draft-eligible guys around Christmas and then after the semester is over in the spring so they can meet with them and talk to them and talk about signability and all those good things.”
Batting cages in place, more renovations to come
The Pirates used new batting cages for the 2019 season. Those facilities were completed shortly after classes started for the fall semester last year.
An indoor pitching area will be completed this summer.
“We’re looking to enhance our locker room,” Godwin said. “Have a professional locker room, a weight room and some other things over in our facility … but I don’t know when that timeline will happen.”
Bryant Packard was the preseason Player of the Year in the AAC. He hit .358 his junior season with seven home runs and 40 RBIs in the leadoff spot despite being limited physically by some ailments that caused him to miss seven games.
“Pack has battled different things, but he was healthy enough to play at his full potential down the stretch,” Godwin said. “Zac Womack (trainer) did a tremendous job of getting him ready every day.”
Thoughts on 2019
ECU had an exceptional season.
“We were as consistent as any team in the country,” Godwin said. “We won every weekend series except UCLA and Louisville. We were pretty daggone good after starting 8-5. … To be able to win 20 games in a conference for the first time that anybody’s ever done that is pretty special. You’re talking about a body of consistent work. That’s the way the team should be remembered. In my opinion, it’s the most consistent team East Carolina has ever had as far as breaking a record of wins in a conference. Winning 42 regular-season games, that’s pretty consistent.”
The College World Series starts Saturday in Omaha and Godwin will have a rooting interest.
“I’m going to be pulling for Michigan,” Godwin said. “Going to pull for two of my teammates.”
Godwin stays in touch with Bakich and Schnabel.
“Almost daily,” Godwin said. “They’re two of my best friends. We were a very close-knit group that played here when I played here.”
Michigan stunned the Bruins with a 4-2 win in game three of their Super Regional on Sunday night in Los Angeles.
“They were one of the last four in as far as the NCAA was concerned,” Godwin said. “You get hot and some things fall into place. The one seed gets beat in the (Corvallis) regional and they get in the winners bracket. They lost to Creighton. Then they beat Creighton. Then they go to UCLA.
“The thing about Michigan is, they can really pitch at times. They’ve got frontline guys on the mound. And then they’re really athletic positionally. I think the thing that helped them at UCLA was No. 1, their pitching, but No. 2, their speed. They stole some bases and put some pressure on UCLA. If you can do that, you’re not going to get a ton of hits because of UCLA’s pitching. It’s so great as well. If you get a hit, you can steal second, which puts pressure on UCLA. I thought they did a good job of that.”
The Wolverines play Texas Tech on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Some of ECU’s personnel will be gaining experience and refining their skills in summer leagues.
“Some will,” Godwin said. “But then you’ve got guys like Gavin Williams, Kuch (Jake Kuchmaner) and Tyler Smith. … They won’t be involved in summer leagues. They’ll stay back and be with the newcomers for summer school and work out with the strength coach and get ready for the fall.”
Godwin seems to work nonstop with recruiting, fall practice and the season itself, but he will take some time off.
“I always take one (vacation) before school starts,” Godwin said. “I’ll take a few days off at the beginning of August.”