It took East Carolina more time to subdue Old Dominion on Wednesday — four hours and four minutes — than the duration of the bus ride back to Greenville.
The No. 14 Pirates were in position to wrap things up in a shorter time frame before a home run by ODU third baseman Kenny Levari with one out in the bottom of the ninth energized the Monarchs fans among a crowd of 654 at Bud Metheny Stadium in Norfolk.
A happy ending, a 4-1 win and a triumphant ride home were assured as ECU scored three times in the top of the 13th. Ryley Johnson drove in the go-ahead run and Landon Ginn completed a colossal 18-strikeout performance by the pitching staff by setting the hosts down in order in the bottom of the 13th.
ECU outhit ODU, 11-3, but the Pirates stranded 12 runners.
“It was a tough offensive day for both teams,” said ECU coach Cliff Godwin. “The wind was blowing in, which is kind of abnormal there. I thought our pitching and defense were outstanding.
“We were able to get some guys on base, just not able to capitalize. We did hit some balls hard with some guys on base at times, and they made good plays. I think it showed a lot of resilience in our team to be up 1-0, get the game tied, you’re on the ropes. It’s a bullpen day, and everybody in the bullpen did their job. We were able to get a big two-out hit by Ryley Johnson and then A-Mack (Alec Makarewicz, two RBIs) behind him, and then Landon Ginn came in and closed the door. Really proud of our guys, just how they persevered through a really tough game. Old Dominion’s a good team.”
ECU (35-14) topped the Monarchs, 7-3, in Greenville on April 11. The second meeting was a more difficult process.
“That’s baseball,” Godwin said. “You’ve got to take punches; you just can’t let somebody knock you out. There wasn’t a lot of panic in the dugout, just, ‘Hey, keep playing, keep doing your deal.’ I thought our guys did a really good job of that. Plus, we were handed some adversity before the game. People don’t realize that (Jacob) Starling (second baseman hitting .309 with eight home runs and 36 RBIs) couldn’t go because of a bad back, and it really bothered him to swing, but he went in there and made some good plays defensively.
“Then his spot came up, and we still had the lead, so we let him bunt, which he ended up striking out because he fouled off the bunt. Then they tie it up. Dixon Williams had started, a freshman who’s going to be a really good player for us. Nate Chrismon went in and got a really big hit, which would’ve put us up a run if it hadn’t hit the umpire. A lot of guys … It was a really, really good team win.”
Pirates, Memphis have streaks
ECU has a 3-game American Athletic Conference series with Memphis that starts on Friday at 6 p.m. at Clark-LeClair Stadium.
The Pirates (12-6 AAC) have won four straight and the Tigers (26-22, 8-10) are on a 5-game winning streak.
ECU completed a sweep at Cincinnati last weekend with a 6-5 victory in 10 innings Sunday.
“I thought Friday and Saturday it was two of our best games, especially on the road, that we’ve played,” Godwin said. “I thought we brought a lot of energy, we pitched well, we played great defense. Our offense was good. We talk about winning three categories. We’re scoring six runs or more. We are, I think, 27-0 if we do that. You want to give up three runs or less, which we did on Friday and Saturday, and then make one or less errors, which we did on Friday and Saturday, so I thought Friday and Saturday were two of our better-played games, especially on the road.
“Sunday, we got a lead and then the game challenges you. We’re up 4-2, and it’s first and second, no outs. We bring in Landon Ginn, guy pops up a bunt, and Landon catches it. Then we get a double play ball to Josh, and he threw a little bit low to Berini. Landon was just trying to find the bag at first base. He was there, but his foot was off the bag on the throw, so we would’ve been out of the inning, but we weren’t. One of their older players (Cole Harting) hits the opposite field, 3-run homer. Now you’re down a run.
“It’s a game of inches, of course, but our guys battled back. … Just a really hard fought game on the road to finish off a sweep, which I’m sure you know how hard it is to beat a team six times in a row. We also beat them six times in a row last year after we lost that first game, so we beat them 12 straight times. It’s really hard to beat anybody that many times in a row, and our guys did that.”
Memphis is coming off a sweep of South Florida.
“We know we can’t take anybody lightly,” Godwin said. “We’re worried about us, making sure we’re playing our best brand of baseball down the stretch. We definitely want our fans to feel that and be here all weekend. We need the place to be rocking so we can have a home-field advantage.”
The Pirates finished exams last week and another impressive team grade point average is imminent.
“Official grades will come out in the next day or so, but it’ll be north of a 3.5 overall team GPA,” Godwin said. “That’ll be six straight years of having a 3.4 or higher team GPA, which is outstanding. I’m so proud of our guys and our staff and our academic advisor, Karlie Abbott. Everybody has done a really good job this semester.”
Godwin conveys the academic emphasis in the ECU program to recruits.
“That’s a priority of ours, that you’ve got to be serious about your academics,” Godwin said. “That doesn’t mean that everybody’s got to be a 4.0 student, but when you get here, there’s going to be discipline and accountability when it comes to the classroom because getting your education’s the number one most important thing.”
Camels coming to town
No. 13 Campbell plays at ECU on Tuesday for a 6 p.m. start. Speculation says that matchup could decide a regional host role in the NCAA Tournament.
“I don’t get caught up in that stuff,” Godwin said. “We take care of our business, and I don’t worry about other people or don’t worry about what the media says. Our job is to go out there and play our best baseball down the stretch, and that’s what we’re looking to do.”
The Camels have wins over the Pirates in Buies Creek and Fayetteville this season.
“We’re going to have to play Memphis first, so I haven’t even looked towards Campbell,” Godwin said Thursday. “They’re really good. We’re really good, too. They have beat us twice by one run. I don’t think we are the same team that we were the first two times we played them, and we have them at home. All those things, I’m excited about.”
South Florida trip
The Pirates end the regular season at South Florida, May 18-20.
Then it’s on to the AAC Tournament in Clearwater, FL, beginning May 23.
It’s a short trip for ECU from USF to the BayCare Ballpark.
“It just works out that way,” Godwin said “There’s a lot of things that go into conference scheduling, which we’re not involved in. That’s the conference office. They’re trying to navigate exam schedules, making sure that certain teams have to be at home during exams, where other teams can travel. That’s the biggest thing, where it starts. Trying to play the early games at the warmer places, rather than the colder places in the conference. A lot of stuff that goes into it, but it just worked out that way with where the conference scheduled us.”
Godwin gave recruiting a thumbs-up.
“It’s going great,” said the ECU coach. “Coach (Jeff) Palumbo is one of the best in the country, and Coach (Austin) Knight, so recruiting’s always going great.”
Coach Godwin’s dad, Coach Godwin
Lewis Godwin, father of the Pirates baseball coach, is a faithful fan. He coached his son in basketball at Greene Central.
“He’s doing great,” said the younger Godwin.
Lewis Godwin has a seat above the ECU dugout for home games.
“He actually went to the game with us (Wednesday),” said Cliff Godwin.
Trey Yesavage, ECU’s Friday night starter earlier this season, has been recovering from some arm soreness.
“He’ll pitch on Sunday this week,” Godwin said.