East Carolina has looked like the team many envisioned in 2022 in winning its last four games — and eight of its last 10.
Pirates coach Cliff Godwin focused on the last four victories on Monday morning.
“We had a great week,” said the Pirates coach. “We’ve been on the road all week, … Big win at Elon, 7-1, and then go into (Central Florida)… Obviously they were doing well in the conference (5-1) and our guys did a really good job. Got behind twice on Thursday night, 2-0, and 6-2, and responded and played really well all weekend and our pitching was really good.
“We used four pitchers in the first two games, with Ryder (Giles) and (Garrett) Saylor in game one, and then Kuch (Jake Kuchmaner) and Danny (Beal) in game two, and then our bullpen was fresh on Saturday and Jake Hunter gave us a quality start.
“We knew he wouldn’t go more than three innings and (Josh) Grosz was solid, (Trey) Yesavage was good. And then we got Wyatt (Lunsford-Shenkman) chipping in there for the ninth inning. So really well-played baseball all week.”
A 10-run inning fourth inning Thursday set the tone for the UCF series after the Pirates had fallen behind, 6-2.
“They just did a really good job,” Godwin said. “They responded. There was no panic in the dugout. The starting pitcher that we were facing, Connor Staine, had a zero ERA going into Thursday’s game and our guys put together a lot of tough at-bats and made them work and came up with some big hits and they just really played well.”
“Well, the scores looked like total domination,” Godwin said. “I don’t know what inning, would have to go back and look, I mean, we were up four, nothing for a while on Friday and then ended up, … And then Saturday, I think it was 0-0 into the fifth inning. And we put up eight-spot in the fifth inning. So that was a big deal. …. So I just thought our guys just played really good baseball. They played together, they pulled for one another. Guys that pitched, just passed the ball along to the next guy. Offensively, we chained very tough at-bats together, up and down the lineup.”
Adjustment with Giles
Ryder Giles has gone from starting shortstop to starting pitcher this season. Giles is 4-0 with a 0.89 earned run average.
“Well, it’s, of course, not how we planned it going into the season, but Ryder just continually does a good job,” Godwin said. “And you want to put your best foot forward on a Friday night. And he just pounds the strike zone, makes his pitches. For the offense on the other side, he makes them have to earn everything that they get and he’s totally composed.
“He’s tough, but the thing I’m most proud about Ryder is just the selflessness he’s shown to go, ‘Hey coach, I just want to win baseball games. So whatever you need from me for the team.’ And right now we need him to pitch on a weekend so that doesn’t allow him to play as much just position player-wise because his arm, it takes him a lot longer to recover when he’s going out there throwing 80, 90 pitches compared to throwing in relief and throwing 20 pitches. So he’s been great and (Jake) Agnos has played great at short.
“Just really appreciate those guys being selfless and doing whatever the team needs.”
Kuch apparently alright
Kuchmaner had pitched five and one-third scoreless innings when he came out of Friday’s game with an arm issue. The senior lefty had allowed two hits with one walk and four strikeouts.
“You go five innings in this day and age of baseball and not give up any runs,” Godwin said. “And we had some long offensive innings in there and it was warm. So it’s not like he got cold, but I don’t know. … I don’t think it’s serious. Will he be able to pitch this weekend? That’s to be seen, but I don’t think it’s going to be a season-ending injury if that’s what people are saying out there.
“I think it’s muscle stuff. … We feel pretty confident that it’s just muscle soreness. It’s not anything major.”
Bats get busy
The Pirates had 41 hits in the UCF series.
“It just amazes me, people just think that hitting is so easy,” Godwin said. “Nothing’s changed.
“Our guys just have continued to work hard and stay the course. And it’s amazing with so much information out there on social media and just people talking, nothing’s changed. Our guys have shown up and gone to work every single day and done what they’re supposed to do. And now their hard work’s paying off.
“And when we weren’t playing well, it didn’t help by… they’re 18- and 22-year olds. And when they read the stuff and it’s not good, then they start believing it. No matter how much I try to direct them to, ‘Hey man, don’t listen to that stuff. Because if you believe it, when it’s good, you’re going to believe it when it’s bad.’ Our guys are a good offensive unit. As I’ve said, I thought we’re going to be good offensively this year.
“We did not start off well, but I would say if you go up and pull our conference stats up, our guys have done a really good job in conference to swing the bat and score runs.
“We just needed to get the right nine guys out there and figure out which guys need to play. And of course have to move Ryder to the rotation. We just had to maneuver some pieces around. We just had to figure out what pieces fit in the right spots.”
Worrell steps up
ECU center fielder Bryson Worrell is the American Athletic Conference Player of the Week after hitting .438 (7-for-16) in four games with two home runs, five RBIs and four runs.
“Bryson has done a great job,” Godwin said. “He’s worked really hard. He’s stayed a lot more composed this year when things haven’t been going well for him. He puts a ton of pressure on the defense because he can run, he can hit, he can bunt, he gets on first base. Of course, he can steal bases, plays a great center field, and yeah, he’s been swinging the bat great lately.
“I think it’s just him going up there and you know, getting the pitch he’s looking for and getting his swing off, and I mean, he played great this weekend.”
Seahawks visit tonight
The Pirates (22-15) host UNC-Wilmington (21-13) tonight at 6:30 p.m. (ESPN+).
ECU took a 3-1 road win over the Seahawks on March 22 with a pair of unearned runs in the eighth inning.
“It’s always very tough,” Godwin said of the regional matchup. “Look, UNCW’s a very, very good program. It’s a rivalry game. They want to beat us really bad and we are going to do our best to go out there and compete at the highest level. So hopefully we have a packed house since we’ve been on the road for a week and the fans come out and support our guys for sure. So it’ll be a good matchup.”
Trip to Tulane
The Pirates return to the road for a series at Tulane that starts Friday at 3 p.m. (ESPN+). ECU is atop the AAC standings with a 7-2 record while the Green Wave is tied for second with Cincinnati at 6-3.
ECU is 11-7 in away games this season.
“It’s always challenging going on the road,” Godwin said. “I mean, none of our games this year have been easy and none of them the rest of the year will be easy. So we’ll have our work cut out for us. Coach (Travis) Jewett does a great job at Tulane and they’re very good.”