With East Carolina in the midst of a bye week in football and the basketball season opener coming up at home on Tuesday night, there will still be a significant athletic event on campus this weekend as the baseball program plays its Purple-Gold World Series.
Teams were going to be picked Wednesday.
“Garrett Saylor is going to be the manager of one team and Carter Spivey is going to be the manager of the other team,” said Pirates coach Cliff Godwin. “They are done pitching for the fall, so they’ll be able to pick the teams and then they’ll coach the teams.”
The first of three 7-inning scrimmages will be Friday at 3:30 p.m. The second game is scheduled for Saturday at 11:30 a.m. and the concluding matchup gets underway on Sunday at noon.
The team that comes up short on runs will be running.
“If they lose the series, they run a mile,” Godwin said. “They get swept, they run two miles.”
Scrimmage with Virginia
ECU hosted Virginia for a doubleheader scrimmage last Saturday.
“We haven’t pitched all of our guys, like Carter (Spivey), Saylor, (Trey) Yesavage, they have not pitched against other opponents, but we’ve had an opportunity to pitch most of our guys and I really am impressed with our pitching staff at this point,” Godwin said. “They’ve done a really good job and we continue to evolve defensively. I think we got a lot better defensively as the fall has gone on.
“We swung the bats good early in the fall and then we kind of cooled off a little bit, but I think we’ve got a chance to be okay offensively as well. Still early, but it’s good to get out and compete against another team.”
ECU won the first scrimmage with the Cavaliers this fall, 3-1, and Virginia won the second contest, 4-3.
The Cavaliers have been an offseason opponent for several years.
“Their position players are, from top to bottom, the best that they’ve been since we’ve been scrimmaging them,” Godwin said. “Man, it’s been a while. We’ve been scrimmaging them probably since ’17, I guess. We played them in ’15 and ’16 and then we started to scrimmage them in the fall, maybe ’17 or ’18. So, in my opinion, their position players are really good.”
Godwin gives back
Godwin made a significant donation to the Pirates Unite Campaign for Comprehensive Excellence. His gift will be used to expand the baseball building along the left field line at Clark-LeClair Stadium.
“I have been put in a position where I’m able to give back and I endowed a scholarship that went to all athletics a few years ago when Phillip Wood was the Pirate Club director,” Godwin said. “When this Pirates Unite came along, and of course I want to raise money for the baseball facility because I think our guys have earned it. I wanted the gift to go specifically to baseball, I’m going to give $100,000 towards that.”
The fundraising effort will go toward an indoor practice facility for football and improvements in multiple sports,
“I know that there’s been money given to basketball already and money given to baseball already,” Godwin said. “Dick and Sarah Bennett are giving a $1 million and others, to baseball specifically. We need to push to get this thing done. We wanted to start raising the money before COVID happened. And of course, COVID shut everything down and it’s been delayed a little bit and the price goes up.
“But I think our program’s earned an expansion and the fans have earned a space where they can go inside and also have premium seating because that’s the one thing at our baseball field that we don’t have is really much premium seating.”
Byrd part of program
Freshman infielder/pitcher Parker Byrd had to have part of a leg removed after a boating accident this summer.
“Parker has a locker,” Godwin said. “Parker is at most practices, He’s actually going to be an assistant coach for Saylor in the Purple-Gold World Series. He’s rehabbing, working his tail off, and I think he’s probably a couple of months away from getting a prosthetic.
“Parker is the inspiration for so many, not just us, but I mean nationwide. So, it’s been a pleasure to have him around. … He comes up and hits on his own and gets a lot of work in so pretty special.”
Godwin said he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Parker playing.
“I’m definitely not going to tell him that he can’t, because I wouldn’t bet against Parker Byrd,” Godwin said. “I don’t think it will be this year, but down the road, I mean, anything’s possible.”
Godwin gave his appraisal of fall practice in general.
“I think our fall’s been pretty good,” Godwin said. “I think our guys have done a good job of just showing up and trying to get better every day. Our older guys have done a really good job leading the newcomers in. So overall it’s been good. I mean, we got a lot of work to do before we play in February, but I think the biggest thing for me is always how our guys’ intent is of just wanting to get better and to stay hungry, even though we’ve had a lot of success over the past few years.”
The Purple-Gold World Series finishes fall practice.
“It wraps up the team aspect from baseball specific stuff, and then we’ll have a lot of workouts, strength and conditioning-wise for the next couple of weeks,” Godwin said. “And that’ll finish up with our scrimmage week, which is when guys pick the teams and they have some fun stuff and there’s some challenging stuff, too, as well. And that’ll kind of wrap up the team aspect, which will be right before Thanksgiving.”
Burleson called up
Former ECU player Alec Burleson made his major league debut with St. Louis on Sept. 7. He hit his first homer for the Cardinals the same night that teammate Albert Pujols hit the 700th of his career.
“It’s just awesome,” Godwin said. “Really. A guy that worked his tail off was a tremendous player for us. Of course, transitioning to just a hitter in professional baseball, which I knew he would continue to hit better when he could just focus on hitting and not have to worry about pitching as much. … Super excited for him, couldn’t happen to a better dude. A guy that’s an extremely competitive human being and super talented and he has earned to be where he is.”
And Burleson’s former teammate, Connor Norby, is still playing second base and still hitting home runs.
“He went to Triple-A, finished up in Triple-A and led the Orioles’ entire minor league system with home runs,” Godwin said. “I think it was 29.”
Weekend wish list
The former ECU Academic All-American talked about what he will be looking for as the Purple-Gold World Series unfolds.
“I’m just looking forward to sitting back and not having to coach as much,” Godwin said. “Really, the coaches sit back and just watch and evaluate and let Saylor and Spivey manage and watch the guys compete against one another. We had a really good crowd against UVa. I would say it was definitely over a thousand people for a fall scrimmage, which was awesome. And then hopefully fans show out too, so they get another opportunity to watch our guys. So, I’m just excited to sit back and watch and evaluate.
“I’ll move around. I’m not going to sit in the same place. I’ll move around and be on the field.
ECU went 46-21 in 2022. The Pirates won the American Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament championships for the first time and also hosted an NCAA Super Regional for the first time.
“The momentum has been tremendous for the past few years,” Godwin said. “We’re one of two teams in the entire country to host four straight regionals. Us and Stanford. There’s a lot of colleges and universities between Eastern North Carolina and Northern California. So that’s very special. And then to be one of four teams to play in three super regionals in a row.
“The thing that always worries me is guys just getting complacent and not staying hungry because nobody in our locker room’s ever lost. They’ve all won, not just last year’s team. And I felt like that’s what was one of the biggest reasons we started off slow, was just that the hunger wasn’t there at all times when we were practicing. And then we were able to re-correct it during the season, which was awesome, and then play really well down the stretch.”