ECU baseball coach
Cliff Godwin looks
on from the third
base box in last
year's season opener
with Virginia. The
game marked Godwin's
first as head coach
at his alma mater.
His team went on to
a 40-win season, an
championship and an
by W.A. Myatt)
Pirates primed for
encore and more
That's how East Carolina's
baseball team celebrated its
2015 American Athletic
Conference championship last
season. Nobody expected the
Pirates, with a first-year
coach, to post 40 victories
and walk off with the
league's top trophy. ...
from Woody Peele...
opening day starter
deals last season in
a solid performance
against No. 2
Virginia. The junior
lefthander posted an
8-4 record with a
3.17 ERA in 2015.
(Photo by W.A.
Next: Longwood at
East Carolina |
Friday, 4 pm
Pirates fall to
GREENVILLE — South
Florida had a 13-2
run Tuesday night
after East Carolina
had taken an initial
5-0 lead and the
Bulls went on to a
win in Williams
Arena at Minges
ECU at SMU |
Sunday | 2 pm | TV: ESPNN
Snow signals baseball season
Ice and snow… Freezing temperatures… Welcome to baseball season at East
Carolina! The Pirates opened game week on Monday with freezing rain
falling, causing treacherous driving conditions all over eastern North
Walk waived in Wave
A photographic trail
indicates that the
outcome of last
may have been
different if the
officiating crew had
blown the whistle on
a pivotal play by
the Green Wave's
Louis Dabney. The
play in question,
which prevented the
Pirates from winning
in regulation, set
the stage for Tulane
to prevail in extra
More, including a
Bearcat bigs help
turn back ECU
Octavius Ellis and
Gary Clark each had
lead Cincinnati to a
win over East
12,513 at Fifth
Third Arena on
Howe a prize catch for
Howe may not be a football
prodigy, but he certainly
was ahead of his time at
University Christian High
School. Howe was so talented
as an eighth grader at the
private school of about 700
students in Jacksonville,
FL, that coach David Penland
promoted him to the varsity
squad near the end of the
More from Sammy Batten...
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The recent cold weather
has not been suited for baseball but the East Carolina program has
been making the best of the situation with the season opener at home
against Longwood today at 4 p.m. The Lancers were 22-34 overall last
season and 9-15 in the Big South Conference.
Second-year ECU coach
and alumnus Cliff Godwin has been keeping an eye on the forecast
which is calling for sunny skies and a high in the mid-50s this
The Pirates have taken
precautions due to chilly conditions.
"If we feel like it's
going to be detrimental to the health of our players, we never want
to put our players in a situation where we feel like it's too cold,
where pitchers could put themselves at risk or position players
could put themselves at risk," Godwin said.
The Pirates coach
conducted a workout inside on Sunday. Normally, ECU would scrimmage
Friday, Saturday and Sunday to mimic a game week but Godwin
scrimmaged Thursday with colder temperatures in the forecast for
On the job training
Godwin was an assistant
coach at prestigious programs such as Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, LSU
and Ole Miss before returning to his alma mater to become a head
ECU went 40-22 last
won the American Athletic Conference
tournament in its first year in the league.
It was a learning
experience for the graduate of Greene Central High School.
"I think you learn a
lot," Godwin said. "I think you learn how to manage everybody you're
responsible for. The biggest thing I try to do as a head coach is to
make every person within our organization feels important, from the
student managers to the athletic trainers, our strength coach, our
academic advisor, players that don't necessarily get on the field a
lot, our assistant coaches, how important they are.
organization, you have to make sure that everybody has the same
vision that you do and understands what your goal is. Our
organization is very good as far as everybody believing and one day
having the opportunity to play in Omaha (in the College World
Series). That's very important."
One of Godwin's
objectives in recruiting was to bring more speed into the program.
The Pirates coach wants to be able to put more pressure on opponents
with aggressive base running.
improved that area," he said. "Coach (Jeff) Palumbo (recruiting
coordinator) and I brought in some guys who are more athletic, guys
who can run. A few guys off the top of my head: Dwanya
Williams-Sutton from Wilson (Greenfield), he can really run; Justin
Dirden from St. Louis, he can really run; Kendall Ford, a junior
college kid from Chattahoochee Valley, can really run. Another
freshman, Brady Lloyd, can really run.
"Plus, we've put more
emphasis on base running throughout our preparation. Older guys like
Parker Lamm and Garrett Brooks and Charlie Yorgen are going to steal
more bases just because they'll be more prepared. It's definitely
something that you'll see more of this year, stolen bases."
Speed isn't the only
asset for the new arrivals.
"I don't think we'll
recruit anybody that can't get to first base," Godwin said. "I think
they're going to be OK with that. Obviously, they all are different
players. Dwanya is a guy who has power and speed, which you just
don't normally see and so does Justin. Kendall and Brady are more of
your typical fast guys where they're going to be a line drive,
ground ball type hitter, bunt for a base hit. Get to first base that
way. Everybody brings something different to the table. Those guys
are a little bit different in their talents."
Kruczynski was 8-4 with a 3.17 earned run average primarily as a
weekend starter during his sophomore season. Mound roles have been
defined to an extent going into the 2016 campaign.
"You've got a process,"
Godwin said. "The way the preseason works, you only get three
weekends of intrasquad. (Evan) Kruczynski is going to pitch on
Friday night. (Jacob) Wolfe (5-2, 3.35) is going to pitch on
Saturday. Right now, it looks like Jimmy Boyd (5-7, 4.73) is going
to start on Sunday. ... He's an older guy who pitched a lot for us
last year. ... Joe Ingle (8 saves, 1.17 ERA) will be in the back of
the bullpen as a closer. Davis Kirkpatrick is a guy who is coming
off an arm injury. The first weekend we're going to use him in a
reliever role but he could definitely be a guy who pushes guys for
that starting rotation spot.
"Nick Durazo (5-1, 2.77)
is another veteran back. He's going to be a valuable asset out of
the bullpen but he could also start as well. You've got new guys,
Chris Holba, Denny Brady, Sam Lanier and Matt Bridges, who are going
to push for time. Also two returners who have made jumps but just
still need to be a little more consistent are Mason Keen and Evan
Voliva. ... Luke Bolka (0-0, 3.18), another lefty, actually broke
his wrist at the end of the fall. He's coming back, swinging the bat
and pitching. He will help us in some sort of capacity."
Godwin will have more
options in his lineup with increased depth this season.
"Behind the plate,
Travis Watkins (.292, 36 RBIs) is a veteran, a really good catch and
throw, defensive guy, but also he's going to hit three-hole opening
night for us so he's a guy who brings a lot to the table, not just
baseball-wise but leadership-wise as well," Godwin said.
"Third base is going to
be kind of a position where I don't know if we'll just go with one
guy the whole season. The options there are going to be Kirk Morgan
(.293), Eric Tyler (.268, 27 RBIs) and Charlie Yorgen (.283, 27
RBIs). Those are the three guys that you'll probably see there the
"Eric Tyler can do
anything. He can catch, he can play third, he can play outfield. He
can play first base so he will have a chance to be in the lineup in
a lot of different places.
"Shortstop will be new
faces. Turner Brown has looked really good in the preseason and been
healthy, a plus-plus defender. He comes from Whiteville High School.
He won back-to-back state championships. He's a little guy (5-9,
151) but plays a lot bigger. Then Wes Phillips, a junior college kid
from Cisco Junior College in Texas. He has actually been a little
bit banged-up. This weekend (Feb. 13) has actually been the first
weekend he's actually scrimmaged full speed but he looks good. He's
another guy who I left out on the speed part of it because he hasn't
been able to run because of a groin injury. He's another guy who
will bring speed to our lineup.
"At second, right now,
Charlie Yorgen or Kendall Ford. First base, right now, will be Bryce
Harman (.244, 7 HRs). There are other guys who can go over there
like Eric Tyler and a few options there.
"In the outfield, we've
got veterans back. Parker Lamm (.238), Garrett Brooks (.270), Jeff
Nelson (.234). Two guys who will see some time out there are Dwanya
Williams-Sutton and Justin Dirden. We definitely have more depth
this year. We're more talented. We just need to keep the same
culture of being selfless and just being focused on winning and
everything else will take care of itself."
over into academics
The Pirates have been
getting it done on the field and in the classroom.
"The proof is in the
pudding when you win 40 games last year and you really were
outmanned at some positions and thin on the mound at times, just a
group of guys who really believed in one another and didn't care who
got the credit," Godwin said. "Then you transition that into the
summer when we had all of our newcomers come in for summer school
and most of the veterans back lifting weights.
"We had a 3.4 team grade
point average in the summer. Then you translate that into the fall
and we had a 3.42 team GPA. We had 28 out of 34 guys had a 3.0 GPA
or higher. Pretty daggone impressive. I'm not trying to toot my own
horn. It's just that I've coached all over the country and that's
the highest team GPA I've ever been associated with, the closest
being like a 3.2. It's unheard of.
"If you don't have a
great culture and you don't have great leadership, that isn't
happening. That's what the older guys have done a tremendous job of.
They just welcomed those 17 newcomers. Treated them like they've
been here for a long time. Those guys have done a tremendous job
The perception may be
that Godwin thinned out his roster last year with a demanding
approach, similar to what former ECU coach Keith LeClair did upon
"That's the thing that a
lot of people like to say about me," Godwin said. "What you see is
what you get with me. I put out our expectations, what is required
to be an ECU Pirate. It's a privilege to play baseball at East
Carolina. That's the way coach (Keith) LeClair treated us and that's
the way I treat those guys.
"I didn't thin anybody
out. They thinned themselves out. They didn't want to hold up with
the responsibilities as far as their end of the bargain. They chose
to make a decision and go elsewhere. There's nothing wrong with
that. It's just that we have a pretty high standard here, what our
expectations are. That's the way we live our life every single day."
The second weekend of
the season will take the Pirates to Virginia, the defending College
World Series champions.
The 13th annual Keith
LeClair Classic will bring Southeastern Louisiana, Tennessee and
Maryland to Greenville. There's a trip to perennial power Rice set
for March 11-13. That's followed by a visit from North Carolina on
League play starts April
1 – no fooling – at home against Houston.
"It's not coach-speak
but I learned a long time ago, you need to focus on game one, pitch
one," Godwin said. "We're going to focus on Longwood, Feb. 19, that
first pitch. The schedule is going to be a challenge. It's going to
be a great opportunity for us to play great competition early, which
will prepare us for the conference schedule."
The AAC turned out to be
a surprisingly strong baseball league. The Pirates gained experience
under Godwin in a very competitive conference.
"Last year, the American
was third in RPI (ratings percentage index) in the country," Godwin
noted. "I expect it to be right there again this year. Our guys are
older. They have more confidence today than they had a year ago. Our
guys have won. They understand how to win. A year ago, we were kind
of feeling our way through it, especially early, and didn't know who
to look to.
"Now the guys know to
look to Travis. They know to look to Charlie. They know to look to
Bryce. They look to Garrett. They look to guys who have been in the
fight. Eric Tyler. When stuff is maybe not going well, they look to
those guys, not necessarily from a vocal standpoint. ... Last year,
at times early, you didn't know who to look to. Now they know who to
There will be midweek
clashes of regional interest with UNC-Wilmington, Elon, N.C. State,
North Carolina and Campbell in the midst of the league gauntlet.
"Houston is going to be
really good," Godwin said. "Tulane is going to be good. South
Florida is going to be good. UCF, I think, is going to be good.
Memphis is going to be good. UConn. Really you could spit out
everybody. You don't get ranked third in the country in RPI and not
have good programs. The head coaches in our league are very good
"Everybody talks about
the American, when we got in it. It's going to be football. It's
going to be basketball. It's a baseball conference. There's no other
sport in the American to my knowledge, definitely not the big three,
that finished third in RPI and baseball did. Put four teams in a
regional. I'd be surprised if we didn't get four teams again."
Key to fulfilling
Last year, ECU exceeded
expectations. Godwin was asked about what will be important to the
2016 Pirates in reaching their potential.
"You've got to put guys
in roles they can be successful," he said. "If we keep the same
culture, just focusing on the team goals and not individual goals,
which is obviously hard, especially in this day's society where
everything is about me to the exclusion of everything else. We've
just got to keep the same team culture.
"As long as that shakes
out good, I think we'll be in a good situation."