East Carolina is scheduled to start its Super Regional at Vanderbilt on Friday at noon. Pirates coach Cliff Godwin was all right with the game time during a Zoom conference on Tuesday.
“It’s much better this year than it was two years ago,” Godwin said.
The Pirates had to win twice on Monday, June 3, 2019, in the Greenville regional before traveling to Louisville for a noon start on Friday, June 7.
“I thought Corbs (Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin) would definitely get a night game,” Godwin said. “I figured he had a direct line to the NCAA to pick whatever time. … Maybe he wanted (noon). … Who knows?”
Game two at Vandy is scheduled for noon as well. Both games will be shown on ESPN2. If the series goes to a third game, that is set for Sunday at 3 p.m. on ESPN2 or ESPNU.
Godwin happy for fans
“We were blessed to be able to win the regional,” Godwin said. “Nothing was easy, which nothing this season has been easy for us. It’s been a long year with COVID, no fans, protocols, four (conference) games in three days.
“Just really was pumped to see the fans, to be at max capacity and to see our crowd be able to enjoy a regional championship here in Greenville. That was awesome.”
Playing phone tag
Godwin said he and his former boss had missed each other on phone calls Tuesday.
“We had a little practice (Tuesday),” Godwin said. “Light practice. We’ll get on a plane (Wednesday) and head to Nashville, Obviously, we play a great Vanderbilt opponent. Tim Corbin is a great friend, great mentor of mine. I worked there for a year. … I was director of baseball operations there at Vandy (2004-05). Corbs gave me an opportunity to do that.
“I learned as much in one year’s time about what it takes to be a Division I head coach at a high level that year than any place I’ve ever been. It was like drinking out of a fire hydrant. Corbs was very good to me. He’s been very good to me ever since that day. I just appreciate everything he’s done for me.
Godwin reached out to Corbin after a 1-0 loss at Elon on March 27.
“We have kept in touch, regularly, over the years,” said the Pirate skipper. “I’m laughing because Corbs handles losing about as good as I do. It’s pretty funny the comments that we shared and that stuff’s personal. He has grown up some, just like I have. You try to put your focus on your family and things to get your mind off of it but Corbs — he’s a lot like me when it comes to losing. Of course, we hate losing.”
Godwin’s focus at Vandy
Godwin said his job at Vandy didn’t require him to know the team’s signs.
“Corbs definitely doesn’t need to change his signs, because I didn’t even know the signs when I was there as director of baseball operations,” Godwin said. “I was too worried about other stuff and I said I’m not going to worry about what the signs are.
“I’m going to do my job and try to help in any way I can. So he definitely doesn’t need to change any signs because I don’t know them. He probably will anyway because he thinks I’m probably telling a fib here but I really didn’t know them when I was there.”
Godwin does know that the Pirates are in for a challenge.
“They’re going to be fundamentally sound,” he said. “They’re got great pitching. They’re going to play great defense. They’re going to be able to execute any situation, whether it’s the small game, stealing a base, hitting the ball out of the park. You’re not as consistent as Vanderbilt has been unless you have talent and you’re well coached. That’s a credit to Corbs and his staff and what they’ve done over the past years that he’s been there.”
The Commodores won the College World Series the last time it was played in 2019.
Vanderbilt starting pitchers Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter are a combined 21-6 this season. The Commodores (43-15) are hitting .300 as a team.
“They wouldn’t be where they are today if they weren’t a complete team,” Godwin said. “I guess we’ll have to see in person how really good they are. They’re good. I’ve watched them on TV a few times, not that I was bearing down on them because you never know who you’re going to be matched up with down the road. I’ll start diving into them more (Wednesday), but, as usual, we’re going to worry about ourselves more than we worry about our opponent just because we want to go in and play our best baseball. That’s the key.”
The ECU coach wasn’t sure Tuesday how he would stack his starting pitchers for the Super Regional.
“We haven’t discussed it yet,” Godwin said. “We’re going to see how everybody continues to feel. We’ll figure it out the next day or so. …
“I don’t think anybody gives us a snowball’s chance in hell to win the Super Regional so we’re going to go out there and compete and see what happens. Gavin will pitch either game one or game two. He’ll pitch one of those two games.
“There’s no secret, if Gavin Williams was not our Friday night starter, we would not be sitting where we are today. What he has done for us in solidifying the Friday night role. He’s as good of an ace as we’ve ever had here. Going back to ’19 when we had Jake Agnos, Jake had logged more innings but Gavin has been special. Every time he has gone out, he’s given us an opportunity to win. Even last weekend (vs. Charlotte), when he didn’t have his best stuff, he’s giving us a chance to win against some really good opponents. He’s held his own. We want him to go out there and be himself this weekend.”
Hawkins Field, home of the Commodores, has a capacity of 3,700. The park opened in 2002.
“A lot has changed externally,” Godwin said. “The stuff underneath their offices and the weight room and cages and stuff. I was back there, I guess my last time was when I was at Ole Miss and they had obviously done a lot of renovation.
“Corbs normally gets what he wants there so the facility is as nice as it can be. They’ve got the best of everything from pitching indoors, hitting indoors, weight rooms and a good fan base as well.”
Sophomore second baseman Connor Norby and Williams, a junior right-hander, were among 25 semifinalists for the Golden Spikes Award, which goes to the year’s top amateur player. Norby, who is hitting . 418, is the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year and Williams (10-0) is the AAC Pitcher of the Year, Both have earned All-American honors.
Norby, who has 15 home runs and 51 RBIs in the leadoff spot, was named one of four finalists for the Bobby Bragan Collegiate Slugger Award on Tuesday.
Norby and Williams are roommates.
“I give him a lot of mess all the time,” Williams said. “He’s always getting an earful from me, so I feel like I’m making him better every day.”
Godwin, the AAC Coach of the Year, downplayed the individual accolades.
“We’re just happy to be playing in a Super Regional,” he said. “Vandy’s got star power. I’m glad a couple of our guys have been recognized for their great years. It’s a team effort. None of us would be where we are today without being a great team. That’s the thing I’m most proud of. Our guys have been selfless throughout the entire year.”
Godwin recently spoke with his former Pirate teammate, Erik Bakich, who coaches Michigan. Both played for Keith LeClair at ECU.
“I don’t know if this team is the one that’s going to go to Omaha (home of the College World Series),” Godwin said. “Neither does anybody else on this Zoom call. The only one that does is the Big Man up top, God.
“But I’m in a better place in my life to know that our guys have competed their tails off, worked their tails off to put themselves in a situation to go there
“For the first time it just kind of clicked to me because Erik said it. When Coach LeClair was here and he talked about Omaha all the time, Omaha wasn’t the destination, it was a lifestyle. I stepped back for a minute and I told our team that before the regional.
“Everybody puts so much emphasis on going to Omaha and playing in the College World Series. Only eight teams go and we’ve knocked on the door, however many times — 30 regionals. It’s very well talked about that we’re the team that’s been to more regionals that’s never made it to Omaha. I wear that scarlet letter with pride because we’ve been there a lot.
“I made the last out in the Super Regional in 2001. Cliff Godwin. Last out. Last at-bat of my senior year.
“This team. in my opinion, is not going to be judged by if we make it to the College World Series or not. It’s what we’ve done so far, the 3.69 team GPA (grade point average) and the guys we’re putting out into the world. That’s the thing that matters to me. Of course we’re going to go compete but really I’m tired, to be honest of, ‘Hey, is this the team?’
“I know this — if they allow me to continue to coach at East Carolina, we’re going to play in the College World Series at some point. Is it this year? I got no idea.”