East Carolina went to Houston for a baseball series that didn’t take place last weekend. The Pirates, 26-5 overall and ranked No. 9 for the third straight week by Division I Baseball, continued their resolve of getting better every day despite the schedule gap generated by COVID protocols involving the Cougars.
“It was one of those things,” said ECU baseball coach Cliff Godwin. “We landed in Atlanta and we found out they had a possible positive when we landed in Atlanta. Obviously, when you’re at East Carolina, you don’t get to fly from Greenville, so we had to leave here at 7:30 on a bus and drive to Raleigh.
“We went Raleigh to Atlanta and Atlanta to Houston so we’re in the Atlanta airport, find out they were doing rapid PCRs and they do them on Thursday morning. Not real sure why but that’s what the conference said they could do. They did the same thing the weekend before when they went to Wichita State.
“So they retested him and they sent him to the hospital to get a real PCR. So we had no other choice but to go to Houston because we were in limbo. Normally, when you just have one positive, you think at minimum you’re probably going to get to play two or three games, even if not four because you would think that the contact tracing wouldn’t knock out everybody.
“So at practice on Thursday night, we had a great practice. I was on my cell phone most of the time. I was trying to figure out what the heck was going on. About the time we got done with practice we found out that — I guess with the medical advisor group in th American (Athletic Conference) and the ADs and whoever else is on that committee decided that we shouldn’t play because they contact traced a bunch of their pitchers from going into the weight room.
“Once we found that out, we scrambled to try to get some flights back home before Monday at 2 a.m., when we were originally scheduled to get back into Greenville. We were able to do that so we scrimmaged on Friday and it was just OK, scrimmage-wise. We got back Saturday.
“We scrimmaged on Sunday, which was probably the best scrimmage that we have had the entire year. The guys did a really good job on Sunday.”
Fending off frustration
The Pirates worked at making the best of the circumstances once the Houston series went by the wayside.
“That’s not the world we live in,” Godwin said. “In our program, that’s what the problem with society is. They get caught up with what they can’t control. I told our guys, ‘Hey. the good news is we’re together and we can get better during the situation.’
“You think about all the young guys that got at-bats, six, seven, eight at-bats over the past two scrimmages that we’ve had and play defense and being able to get some of the pitchers a lighter weekend. Bridgie (Matt Bridges) and Cam (Colmore) just threw one inning on Friday and, of course, Gavin (Williams) went four. We just wanted to manage that. I think it’s a blessing in disguise.
“You can look at it, hey, we were out there. We didn’t want to fly out there to scrimmage but at the end of the day we were able to practice twice on a completely-turf field, which will hopefully help us when we go to Wichita State.”
The ECU-Houston series was announced as being postponed, but Godwin said there’s no room on the slate to reschedule the four-game set.
“I’m no rocket scientist but there’s no where to make them up,” Godwin said. “I don’t know why the terminology was used — postponed. It should have been — canceled.”
Godwin was asked if adjustments might be made to the AAC tournament, May 25-30, in Clearwater, FL, to permit some regular-season games to be rescheduled.
“I don’t think we would want to mess with the tournament,” said the Pirates coach. “That’s a crucial part, our conference tournament, I don’t think you want to mess with that. It is what it is. Wichita State and Tulane only played three games this weekend. Weather, there are things that happen so you’re just not going to have an opportunity to make them up.”
ECU is off to an 8-0 start in the AAC. Godwin was asked if a break in the schedule might be beneficial.
“We’ll find out this weekend, won’t we?” Godwin said. “I think our guys did a good job. We got better on Sunday. I don’t know if you could have put two more competitive teams out there. We split up pretty evenly. It was really competitive.
“We had Matt Bridges managing one team. When I say managing, he’s just kind of organizing the dugout. Cam Colmore, the other one. Bridgie’s team won on a walk-off single by Josh Moylan in seven innings. You can’t draw up moments like that.
“That was good, just to be in those competitive situations.”
NCAA regional and Super Regional bids
The Pirates have put in bids to host a regional and Super Regional in the NCAA Tournament.
“I know that we put a bid in like we do every year when we’re in a situation to host,” Godwin said. “Make sure that all the media members know this — we could tank this thing on the way down, on the way out and not have to worry about hosting a regional.
“It’s very premature to talk about it in my opinion. You’ve got to put bids in but it’s a very premature thing to talk about it because you have a couple of bad weekends and you’re going to be not worrying about hosting, you’re just going to hopefully be trying to get in a regional.”
Gavin, starters get work
The coaches sought to give the pitchers enough work to stay sharp, ace Gavin Williams in particular.
‘”We try to give him some work and not overwork them,” Godwin said. “The starters, they all started except Smitty (Tyler Smith) because we wanted (Carter) Spivey to start on Sunday. Smitty threw out of the bullpen on Sunday because Smitty is not going to pitch this Sunday. It was just that we wanted Carter Spivey to go through a starter’s routine this past weekend.”
Central Florida is 17-19 overall and 7-5 in the AAC coming into a 4-game series at ECU that begins with a doubleheader today that starts at 1 p.m.
“I know a couple of things,” Godwin said. “No. 1, they went on the road to Ole Miss when Ole Miss was No. 1 in the country (Feb. 26-27) and they beat them two out of three. They actually should have swept Ole Miss. I think Ole Miss had to score two runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat them the one game. They’ve got a real dude on Friday night, Colton Gordon (5-2, 2.77 earned run average). We actually recruited him, so he picked UCF over us. He was Pitcher of the Week (AAC) this past week. He’s a real dude.
“I mean there’ll be a lot of professional scouts here on Friday to see that matchup between Gordon and Williams. I’m assuming he’s going to go game one. That’s who I would throw if I was them because he’s pretty good. We’ll have our work cut out with them. They’re good.
“I can’t keep saying it enough. It doesn’t matter what their record is. They’re talented and if we don’t play well, we’ll get beat.”
ECU is 22-1 at home this season.
“We’ve only played eight games on the road,” Godwin said. “We’re 4-4 and I don’t think it’s necessarily something that we are not prepared for. It’s just something that’s kind of worked out that way. Obviously, our guys feel comfortable at home, especially since fans are allowed back in the stands.”
Houston was to have been ECU’s first AAC series on the road.
“We would have liked to compete against somebody else but, like I said, it’s out of our control,” Godwin said. “We’re not going to sit here and complain. It also could work as a positive. We don’t know until we kind of see how the rest of the season plays out. … Connor Norby being off his feet for the most part all weekend is going to get him fresher, … which is a good thing. He’s still battling that quad (quadriceps injury). It’s probably going to be something that lingers on throughout the entire year. He’s done a great job of managing it and (Zac) Womack (trainer) of keeping him feeling good and wrapping it different ways just to keep the pressure off that area.
“There’s a lot of positives that can come out of it as well. The thing for me is everybody is getting to pitch. The younger guys that are going to be vital for the stretch run got a ton of quality at-bats against really good pitching. You’re facing Gavin Williams and (Carson) Whisenhunt and Smith and (Jake) Kuchmaner and Spivey. It’s good for them to get those live at-bats, moving forward.”
The focus was pretty much on baseball last weekend.
“We didn’t have a ton of down time because we practiced on Thursday,” Godwin said. “We practiced on Friday. We did take them out to Ragin’ Cajun. It’s a pretty cool little hole in the wall. We took them out to an early dinner for Friday. It was an early wake-up call. We had to be on the bus at 5:45 on Saturday morning. It wasn’t a lot of time to waste. That allowed us to get back at a decent hour on Saturday afternoon around four.
“Then we went pretty early on Sunday as well, just to kind of keep them in that routine.”