East Carolina seeks to end a 4-game losing streak after winning nine in a row as Tulane comes to Clark-LeClair Stadium for a 3-game American Athletic Conference series that is scheduled to start Friday at 6 p.m.
Pirates coach Cliff Godwin has been keeping an eye on the forecast which is calling for showers to subside around midday on Friday.
“As of right now, everything’s set,” Godwin said Thursday morning. “From what I’m seeing, there’s a chance of thunderstorms at game time. But we’ve got a tarp, so we’ll be on schedule as of right now. I know Sunday looks iffy, but right now, we’re on schedule Friday, Saturday, Sunday.”
Games are scheduled for Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.
Godwin put the overall season in perspective. The Pirates were No. 12 in this week’s ratings.
“We’re 29 -12,” said the Pirates coach. “If we started the season saying, ‘Hey, you’re going to be 29-12,’ I think we all would’ve taken that. We’ve played really good in spurts. The past week, we played good at N.C. State. We just gave up a big inning. Other than that, we played good.
“Our guys battled coming off pretty much the disaster of a travel trip with our luggage not being there, having to play a doubleheader. It just was a bad couple of days at Wichita. A bad couple of days don’t make a season or break a season, for sure. So, our guys are in a good place. We’ll practice (Thursday) and we’ll get ready for Tulane.”
The travel issues
Friday’s game at Wichita State was scratched and the teams played two games Saturday due to what were termed travel issues.
“We flew out of Charlotte on Thursday, after the Wednesday night game against Charlotte,” Godwin said. “Our flight got delayed out of Charlotte, so we missed our connection flight. Thank God our director of baseball operations, Blake Hardegree, got us a bus, because the next flight we could get on was 10:30 (p.m.) out of Dallas.
“But after the fact, once we got to Wichita, which was a 5½-hour bus ride, those flights were actually canceled because of weather. So, we would have had to spend the night in the airport in Dallas because those flights were canceled to Wichita.
“We didn’t get 90 percent of our luggage. We didn’t get that until Friday about 6:30 (p.m.). So myself and a lot of others, woke up Friday morning, took a shower and put the exact same clothes on that they had on Thursday. We were able to practice a little bit just for about an hour and a half on Friday night. Then we had a doubleheader Saturday, one game on Sunday, and we got back at 2:30 a.m. Monday morning.”
The equipment was a late arrival as well.
“We didn’t have bats, we didn’t have gloves, we didn’t have uniforms, we didn’t have anything, until Friday night at 6:30,” Godwin said.
When the Pirates have played well in 2023, the starting pitchers have generally gone longer and there have been fewer pitching changes.
“Our weekend starting rotation has done a really good job with (Trey) Yesavage, (Carter) Spivey and (Josh) Grosz,” Godwin said. “Yesavage has been battling some arm soreness, and that’s why he only pitched two innings last weekend. He will not pitch this weekend. So, we’re going Spivey, Grosz, TBA this weekend against Tulane. We’re, hopefully, going to be able to get him back in some capacity next weekend, but we’re not sure.”
Godwin was asked what is important for the Pirates this weekend.
“For our guys to show up and be ready to go,” he said. “I mean, when we’re ready to go, we can play against anybody in the country….
“I didn’t think that we were extremely sharp at Wichita. But, I mean, I don’t know what exactly our record is at home (24-2), but we’ve been pretty sharp at home, consistently. So, looking forward to our guys getting in front of the home crowd and playing their best brand of baseball.”
Godwin shares devotions on social media from time to time.
“I don’t push my faith on our kids,” he said. “Our kids know where my faith stands. It’s more. I mean, that’s my personal, social media. I read devotionals, and not every day, but a lot of times a week, I just put the devotional that I read that morning, out.
“I can’t tell you the number of people that have reached out and said, ‘Hey, what devotional is that you’re reading? … I really liked that message. … Really needed that today.’
“In the grand scheme of things, the Big Man up top is not going to say, ‘Hey, you were a really good head coach, and you won this amount of games. You lost this amount of games.’ That’s not going to get me to heaven. So, I want to do my part and spread His message and try to help people with their faith. …
“Some people are scared to put themselves out there. I know I’m not perfect, and there’s nobody on this planet that’s perfect. The only guy that ever walked the earth that was perfect was Jesus Christ. So that’s the thing, I just can lay my head down at night and know that I’m trying to be better every day.”
Major league baseball has gone to a visible pitch clock to speed games up and relief pitchers must face at least three batters.
“We have a pitch clock, too,” Godwin said of the college game. “It’s just not visible at times. Our guys have to do it within 20 seconds, as well. So that’s the same. I don’t know. I don’t have an opinion on the three-batter limit, to be honest with you. The powers up above me make those decisions, so we’ll just navigate through whatever they tell us that the rules are.”
No place like home
The Pirates are 9-0 at home in April.
“Yep, yep,” Godwin said. “We’ve played well at home. I think some of it might be a little bit of an enigma. We’ve played a really tough schedule in our midweek competition. Not that the weekends have not been tough. But that’s something that we need to do better job of, playing on the road. But our guys have done a really good job at home.”
Tulane doesn’t appear to have one of its stronger teams. The Green Wave is 12-27 overall and 5-7 in the AAC after going 33-26-1 and 11-13 in 2022.
Tulane is 5-14 on the road this season.
The all-time series is 35-35 although ECU has won 12 of the last 16.
ECU is 7-5 in the AAC, one game behind Houston and Wichita State, both 8-4, in the standings.
Obviously, ECU can’t take Tulane lightly.
“Any time you play baseball, man, and that’s the thing about our sport, any other team can beat you,” Godwin said. “I mean, you look this past weekend, six out of the top 12 teams in the country got swept. It’s one thing to lose one game, but to think about six of the top 12 teams in the country got swept, just tells you how much parity there is in college baseball. What I can tell you is, if we don’t play well, Tulane will beat us. If we play well, we’ll have a good opportunity to win.”
The Pirates weren’t alone in their struggles last weekend.
“You can go down the list,” Godwin said. “Florida got swept by South Carolina. Louisville got swept by Duke. Vandy got swept by Tennessee. Arkansas got swept by Georgia and UVA got swept by Notre Dame. … So yeah, it was six out of the top 12 teams.”
Developing and stepping up
Although he will be sidelined this weekend, Yesavage is among the players who have stepped up in 2023.
“That’s a credit to Coach (Austin) Knight (pitching coach) and our coaches,” Godwin said. “I mean, you look at different players on our team — we develop players. Trey Yesavage was a bullpen guy, a really good bullpen guy for us last year as a freshman. He went out and pitched in the summer, developed a few more pitches, continued to work hard, and he’s one of the best Friday night starters in the country.
“You can look at other guys. I mean, Joey Berini has never been an everyday shortstop, and he’s an everyday shortstop for us in his third year. Justin Wilcoxen has never been an everyday catcher. He’s an everyday catcher in his fourth year. So it’s a credit to our coaches and our kids working hard, because they develop underneath our program.”