East Carolina baseball coach Cliff Godwin led off a Zoom conference with some good news in advance of today’s scheduled season opener against Rhode Island at Clark-LeClair Stadium at 4 p.m.
“The Pirates, as of today, are all negative for COVID,” Godwin said. ” … Everybody associated with the baseball program is negative. We’ll be full strength tomorrow going into the game, which is exciting.”
Godwin enters his seventh season as head coach at his alma mater. ECU was 13-4 in 2020 when the season was halted due to coronavirus concerns.
“It’s almost like the first day I was going to be the head coach and coach a game against (Virginia) back in (2015), because we haven’t played baseball in so long,” Godwin said. “You just anticipate this day but not sure with COVID if you’re going to play and all that good stuff.
“I know our guys and our staff are just ready to go out there tomorrow and play baseball against somebody else besides ourselves.”
Rhode Island cleared
Godwin talked about the protocols for opponents.
“Anybody we play this year has to meet the minimum requirements for the (American Athletic Conference), which is two tests per week,” he said. “The Rhode Island coach actually texted Jeff Palumbo (ECU associate head coach) this morning and said they were all clear. There’s forms, obviously, that pass back and forth amongst the administration so at least we don’t have to handle that as baseball coaches.
” … They’re good to go and they’ll be headed down here (Thursday) at some point in time.”
Tyler Smith to start
Senior right-hander Tyler Smith has been named to throw the first pitch of the season. It will be business as usual for the opening day starter.
“We’ve battled some weather this week,” Godwin said. “Monday, we scrimmaged just a little bit. Tuesday, which was the nicest day, we had to give them a day off. … I really have not been around Smitty that much, as crazy as that sounds, but we had a team meeting on Wednesday. … I said, ‘Smitty, have you done anything different this week?’ He goes, ‘No, I go exactly.’ And that’s the way that we approach, as a program, that we’re staying the same.
“Nothing has changed. We’re going to stay focused on the processes that have gotten us to this point. When I mean this point, I mean Matt Bridges’ processes are different than Smitty’s, Smitty’s processes are different from Seth Caddell’s and so forth. The guys are really focused on what each individual needs to do to prepare themselves to be ready for tomorrow night and we do the same as a team.”
Dealing with weather
The forecast was calling for an 80 percent chance of rain and 41 degrees at game time today. The Pirates have contended with adverse weather during the preseason but are much better equipped to practice inside than when Godwin was catching at ECU.
“It’s a tremendous advantage,” said the former academic All-American. “We have a pitching indoor where guys can throw bullpens inside. We have the hitting indoor, which we can pull the cages back, which we did on Sunday, and we went pitcher versus hitter in the big square cage that we have in our hitting indoor.
“We wouldn’t have been able to do any of that when I played here. We had outdoor cages. It was Harrington Field. We would have lifted weights and Coach (Overton/LeClair) would have probably just ran us because there was nothing else for us to do because we couldn’t play baseball. We would not have been able to get a ton of baseball stuff in because there was no indoor facilities for us to be able to get work in.”
Scouting report limited
Godwin was asked about the Rams, who were 8-5 before the shutdown last season.
“We watch video,” said the former Greene Central Ram. “The tough thing has been there’s not a ton of recent video on pitchers as last year was COVID and it’s just been harder to get information. I know the kid’s name (Ryan Twitchell) that’s going to start for them on Friday night. He’s a right-handed pitcher, but I really don’t know much about him. He was hurt some last year and his stuff wasn’t as good as it was two years ago.
“There’s going to be some uncertainty about who we’re facing and what’s going on as much as any game we’ve ever played. I go back to the Quinnipiac game (2019 NCAA regional). It’s hard to get video of those guys and the video we had of the pitchers … you couldn’t tell if it was a fast ball or a breaking ball. As a coach, you want to prepare your guys just for what they’re going to see, especially the hitting side of it. I felt naked going into that game. That’s not the reason we lost that game, but we don’t have a lot of information.
“We have looked for it but it’s just not out there. The thing our guys have to do a tremendous job of early for hitters is communicating to the other batters what they’re seeing at the plate. Bryson (Worrell) is going to lead off for us (Friday) and he’s going to have to come back with information to the next guy and the next guy is going to have to pass it on and we’re just going to have to do a really good job of communicating early on in the game.”
Game times could change
Godwin noted that forecasts can change for the better.
“Early on last week, it looked like it was going to snow for four days straight,” he said. “I looked at the radar this morning early and 30 minutes north and west of us, it was sleeting so definitely better to be water than snow or ice for everybody involved. … I’m not a weather man
“We’re going to do everything we can to play tomorrow evening if we have to back it up to six or seven o’clock at night. It’s going to get out of here at some point in time but if not, we’ll strap it on and play a doubleheader on Saturday and one game on Sunday.”
Value of flexibility
Adjustments have become part of the game in the pandemic.
“There’s no certainty about anything,” Godwin said. “There’s no certainty about tomorrow. There’s no certainty about four or five hours from now. We’ve told our guys you have to be ready to bob and weave and adapt. That’s one of the things that we talked about in the fall a ton. Be ready for whatever. Be ready for no fans, which we prepared for that.
“We’ll just take it one minute, one second at a time, one pitch at a time and see what happens.”