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View from the 'ville
Friday, February 25, 2011

By Al Myatt

Sweep confirms potential

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

A season-opening sweep of Youngstown State at Clark-LeClair Stadium really didn't teach East Carolina baseball coach Billy Godwin a lot about his refurbished team, but it did confirm some of his feelings about the 2011 group's potential.

"What I kind of thought is what kind of came out," Godwin said. "I thought we pitched and we played great defense. I thought we executed offensively for the most part. Looking back over it, I probably wasn't as happy with our offensive execution on Saturday. We didn't have that many opportunities. I think maybe you have to credit their pitcher (starter Kevin McCulloch, 6 innings, 0 runs).. It's tough to come out and just score 10 runs every game. The game's not that easy."

The season opener certainly didn't start well as leadoff batter David Leon homered off of ECU's Seth Maness (1-0, 1.29 earned run average) on an 0-1 pitch to begin the game.

"I think it was a bad pitch," Godwin said. "I think if you talked to Seth, he'd tell you the same thing. I think it was just up. My reaction was, 'So what? Let's go.' I think you saw the true competitor in Seth come out because he really settled in right after that and went to work."

The Pirates came back for an 11-3 victory last Friday. ECU's starters allowed only Leon's homer in 17 innings last weekend and Godwin will stick with Maness, Zach Woods and Mike Wright this weekend for a three-game set at No. 10 Virginia beginning at 5 p.m. today. Woods started Saturday's 1-0 win and Wright was on the mound to begin Sunday's 10-0 triumph over the Penguins.

Wright was the least experienced of ECU's starting mound corps.

"He threw very well for us the other day," Godwin said of Wright. "You look at the line. He didn't give up a lot of hits (three). People might say he didn't have a lot of strikeouts (one in five innings) but he didn't have a lot of balls squared up against him either. That's our whole philosophy — let's attack and try to get an out in three pitches or less. Hopefully, it's weak contact."

Cavaliers 4-0

Virginia has wins over UAB, No. 23 Auburn, and Arkansas State at Auburn as well as VMI at home. The Cavs are hitting .312 as a team and the staff ERA is 2.50.

"It's a great opportunity and I'm going to be honest," Godwin said. "I know they've got a great program and they're going to have good players but I just want to focus on us. We've certainly got to play at a high level. Anytime you go on the road, you've got to play at a high level."

Godwin met with team captains on Monday to put together a plan of preparation for this weekend.

"I really thought I was going to come up with some great scheme of preparation," Godwin said. "Really we just went right back and did the repetitive things. We practiced a lot of fundamentals and repetition. I think the team that comes out and plays the best in this series is going to be the team that makes the fewest mistakes."

Pirate freshmen produce

Godwin thought highly of his group of new players and they produced quickly.

"I was excited," Godwin said. "I think it's easy for us to identify as coaches in this game what a high level player looks like. For them to go out and perform, that becomes kind of another element in itself. I was real excited for those guys. Jack (Reinheimer, shortstop) and Drew (Reynolds, third base) both played very well on the left side. I thought Chase (McDonald, designated hitter) swung the bat well.

"They all got hits in their first at-bat. That was kind of cool. Ben Fultz came in and in his first college at-bat, got a hit, too. Chase hit his first home run. It was a good experience to get their feet under 'em. I think the sky's the limit for those guys. We recruited them here because we believe that but it's a long haul. We're going to have some ups and downs, but they've just got to keep working and keep grinding."

The road factor

Obviously playing on the road against a ranked opponent is a bigger challenge than the opening weekend.

"It's a factor," said the ECU coach. "The first factor is you're not in your own environment. You're not at home sleeping in your own bed. I think the quickest thing for coaches that we try to do is that immediately wherever we go on the road is to establish a schedule for our players. We're going to do this. Your bed check is at this time. You're not going to sleep all morning. We're going to have breakfast at this time.

"There's a regimented schedule already in place for them.

"As far as the game itself, we're playing on 90-foot bases. It's the old Hoosiers (movie) thing. The foul line is still 15 feet. It's really no different. I'm sure Virginia will have a good crowd. Our guys have played in front of some great crowds on the road, like Southern Miss, Tulane and Rice. For our new players, again, I think this is another hurdle in their maturation process that they're going to have to go through. It will be interesting to see how they react on the road in front of a good crowd."

The Pirates were scheduled to bus up to Charlottesville on Thursday afternoon.

Godwin expected to see an ECU contingent at Virginia as well.

"I've never been anywhere since I've been at East Carolina that East Carolina people didn't show up so I'm sure we'll have a good turnout since it's not that far. We probably had a hundred fans on the West Coast last year."

McMullan still in Cav camp

Kevin McMullan is in his fifth year as associate head coach at Virginia and his eighth year overall with the Cavalier program. McMullan, of course, was the acting head coach at ECU in 2002 when disabilities sidelined Keith LeClair. The Pirates won the Conference USA Tournament in Kinston that year.

'I know Kevin very well," Godwin said. "He's a really good baseball man, a great person, a great recruiter."

Godwin's arrival at ECU didn't overlap with McMullan's tenure.

"I actually dealt more with him being at Louisburg in recruiting here (at ECU) and at Virginia from our program (at Louisburg)," Godwin said.

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02/25/2011 03:33 AM


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