East Carolina coach Cliff Godwin met with media via Zoom on Wednesday as the Pirates prepare to open Super Regional play at Clark-LeClair Stadium on Friday at noon (ESPN2).
The eighth-seeded Pirates and No. 9 Texas are both 45-19 going into the best-of-three series.
“So, one more day and then, we’ll get to play Texas,” Godwin said. “So super excited for our guys, number one, for our fans, the town of Greenville, East Carolina University, to be able to host a Super Regional. We’ll get a very, very quality opponent in Texas.”
Follow the leader
Pirate center fielder Byson Worrell led a 13-4 win over Coastal Carolina for the Greenville regional championship on Monday. Worrell put ECU ahead to stay with an RBI triple in the bottom of the first inning and finished 4-for-4 with a homer, four runs and four RBIs.
Worrell considered a pro contract after a Super Regional loss at Vanderbilt in 2021.
“I said this a lot after this past weekend that, he had an opportunity to sign as a free agent last year for around $20,000,” Godwin said. “I told him that, ‘I didn’t think you should sign for $20,000. I think you should come back.’
“And he says, ‘I don’t think I should sign for that either.’ So, he made that decision. I said, ‘Let’s come back and do something special.’
“And everybody wants to know like, ‘Hey, what’s different with him?’ In reality, he’s healthy this year, which last year he wasn’t. He’s grown up a whole lot, just mentally. The leadership he has provided to a lot of our players, but especially the younger guys, helping JC (Jacob Jenkins-Cowart) and others just continue to mature and understand how to navigate a college season. He’s a glue guy, not only just a really good player.”
Godwin said Worrell has matured significantly since joining the program.
“It’s light years apart,” Godwin said. “His freshman year, and I can laugh about it now, he had to have an accountability partner. Basically, he would have to follow, I think Andrew Henrickson, who was a senior outfielder around and do his early hitting with him, throw with him.
“I told him, ‘Hey, if he goes to the bathroom, you go to the bathroom when he goes.’ Just to help him out from a work ethic standpoint. So now, I don’t have to worry about that. He’s on the other side, helping younger guys.”
Looking at Longhorns
In keeping with the timetable of his scouting approach, Godwin had not studied Texas pitchers in depth on Wednesday.
“I haven’t looked at their stuff yet,” he said. “I’ll start doing that (Thursday). … I’m an early riser, so I’ll get up really early Friday morning. So, it’s fresh on my mind and get my notes together. But I know they’re good arms.
“I don’t know it specifically. I haven’t looked at their stuff and to be able to navigate that stuff yet.”
Godwin was asked about high scoring in NCAA baseball.
“Maybe part of it could be that there’s more older players that are talented because of the shortened draft that have seen a lot of college pitching,” Godwin said. “Bryson’s been in our program for five years, so he’s seen a lot of different arms and stuff.”
Godwin said sophomore left-hander C.J. Mayhue (5-1) will start for ECU on Friday.
Game two is Saturday at noon (ESPN2).
“Whoever we don’t use in a max capacity role (Friday), will be available to be that number two starter,” Godwin said.
Godwin talked about the mindset that produced a 20-game winning streak prior to a 9-1 loss to Coastal on Saturday night.
“It is that way because we were 14-13 and all you guys said that we were awful and we would never make a postseason run,” Godwin said. “So, they’ve been playing playoff baseball since our 28th game. And that’s been neat. I don’t tell them not to dog pile. I don’t tell them to dog pile. They’ve made those decisions amongst themselves. And it really has, for the first time in my head-coaching career, been a player-led team. We feed them information, the players take that information and go with it.
“I do still feel like we’re playing with house money because nobody thought we were going to be any good this year at the beginning of the season. They could have very well played with pressure after the 20-game win streak was broken. But I knew when we took batting practice on Monday that we were going to play really well.
“I didn’t know we were going to win, but I knew we were going to play really well because of their mental capacity, the way they bounced around the field. I said, ‘Hey, we’re going to be engaged and it’s going to be tough to beat us at home today.'”
Ivan Melendez is hitting .404 with 30 home runs and 90 RBIs for the visitors.
“We’re going to do everything in our power, not to let him beat us,” Godwin said. “They’ve got some really good players around him. So, you can’t just take those guys lightly by any means. But we’re going to try to not let him beat us.”
Playing at home
The Pirates don’t have to travel for a Super Regional this year.
“It’s way better,” Godwin said. “We played on Monday at (1 p.m.), where we were playing that night game on Monday night against Campbell a few years ago (2019) and then had to go on the road. So, it’s way easier when you don’t have to get on the flight after playing a long regional series.
“Our guys will be way more rested than we were when we, I mean that first practice at Louisville, when we broke the huddle and those guys ran on the field, I was like, “Oh God, this ain’t going to be good.” Burley (Alec Burleson) was like dragging his legs out to the outfield. So no, we’re in good shape and we’re just excited to be at home.”
Hosting at Kinston
ECU hosted a Super Regional at Grainger Stadium in Kinston in 2001, Godwin’s senior season.
“That was a long time ago, but no, it’s no different than hosting a regional in my opinion,” Godwin said. “What I mean by that is as far as the atmosphere, obviously it’s just one team. It’s the best two out of three, the format’s different, but the excitement level, the fans, the crowd. It’s going to be, hopefully, even a little bit better than it was on Saturday night against (Virginia), but it’s going to be just to that level of excitement and noise, and you’ve just got to make sure you’re loud on the field so you can communicate and you can hear one another.”
Excitement among former players
Pirate players through the years are sharing in this season’s success.
“Everybody’s excited,” Godwin said. “If you played baseball at East Carolina and we’re having an opportunity to host a Super Regional in Greenville, North Carolina, Clark-LeClair stadium for the first time, how could you not be excited?
“That’s one of the coolest things. Since I’ve been able to be the head coach here for eight years, you’ve got the group of guys that I played with and of course, guys in between that, and when I became the head coach here, but to run around The Jungle and see Sam Lanier and Tyler Smith and Cam Colmore, Matt Bridges, of course, Chad Tracy is spending the night with me and John Williamson’s coming down.
“I mean, Eric Bakich and Nick Schnabel, I don’t know if they’re going to be going to make it this weekend, but they’re going to try to, so it’s just, it’s awesome for so many guys want to come back and just be a part of it. And that’s what the ECU baseball family is about.”