View from the East
Friday, June 3, 2016

By Al Myatt

Al Myatt

Regional represents redemption

NCAA Charlottesville Regional

June 3-6 | Davenport Field | Schedule

Game 1: UVa 17, W&M 4 (Friday)

Game 2: ECU 9, Bryant 1 (Friday)

Game 3: W&M 4, Bryant 3 (Saturday)
Game 4: ECU 8, UVa 6 (Saturday)
Game 5: UVa vs. W&M | Sunday, 11 am
Game 6: ECU vs. Winner G5 | Sunday, 3 pm
Game 7*: ECU vs. Winner G5 | Monday, 6 pm
*Game 7 necessary only if ECU loses Game 6

Complete Regional Schedule & Scoreboard



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By Al Myatt
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The Bryant Bulldogs have momentum going into the Charlottesville regional. East Carolina's first round opponent at 4 p.m. today has won 10 in a row. Momentum is not a factor in the Pirates' favor as ECU is coming off an 0-2 showing in defense of its 2015 championship in the American Athletic Conference tournament last week.

While the case can't be made for momentum, ECU isn't without motivation. Coach Cliff Godwin said it's essentially about recovering the program's identity.

"I think it was a wake-up call for our guys and I think they're going to play with a lot more sense of urgency," Godwin said in retrospect of the AAC event at Bright House Field in Clearwater, FL. " ... What's important for the East Carolina Pirates is to go out there and to play as hard as we can, to compete as hard as we can. We need to execute. We need to get back to playing East Carolina baseball. That's just being tougher, being more blue collar and competing. I think we kind of had lost that a little bit, especially in the conference tournament. That's been the point of emphasis the past few days."

South Florida and Memphis were trying to qualify for the NCAA tournament by winning the AAC tournament title. The Bulls topped the Pirates, 4-2, and the Tigers eliminated ECU, 5-4.

Connecticut won the league tournament. ECU beat the Huskies five out of six times in 2016.

In terms of common opponents, Bryant lost 6-3 at UConn on April 13.

Maryland took two of three from the Bulldogs on March 11-13. ECU edged the Terps, 4-3, to win the Keith LeClair Classic at home on March 6.

That's ancient history.

The concern for the Pirates has to be improving the level of last week's performances.

"I just don't think we played well," Godwin said. "At the end of the day, not taking anything away from South Florida and Memphis, but we didn't play our best baseball. When I self-evaluate myself, I take full responsibility for that. We didn't play well. This team is good but we're not great talent-wise. If we don't play well, we have a chance to lose to anybody in the country.

"So, South Florida played better than us. It's a game of inches, a pitch here or a pitch there. They won more pitches than we did so we went 0-2 and we came home."

The Pirates went back to work upon their return.

"We've had a very intense few days of practice," Godwin said. "Saturday, we actually in my opinion had one of the best intra-squad scrimmages to have that late in the year that I've ever been associated with. The guys really got after it and competed. There was a ton of energy. We went for 10 innings because we knew rain was coming in on Sunday."

Bus ride to Charlottesville

East Carolina made the bus trip to the regional site Wednesday afternoon. The ride was a little less than four hours.

"The university has some really nice buses," Godwin said. " ... A bus is really the only way to get there. It's too short a trip for planes. ... We take the same stuff no matter what. It's a little bit more difficult when you're flying. You check bags and stuff. We're going to carry the same stuff no matter what."

Speaking of transportation, Cliff's Cab, the coach's six-passenger golf cart that he uses to take students around campus, is getting a break since spring semester ended with the baseball team sporting an impressive 3.20 grade point average for the term.

The concept was to provide a service while educating students about the baseball program.

"It finished up a month ago, right before classes were let out," Godwin said. "It was for the students and trying to get the students involved. Once school was out and exams started, that was the last episode but we'll definitely do it again next year."

In theory, ECU could play in Greenville

It's not beyond the realm of possibility that the Pirates could host a Super Regional, although it's not a scenario that Godwin has been mulling in his spare moments.

"There's always a chance," said the ECU skipper. "I haven't looked at anything like that but anytime there's a non-one seed that wins a regional and a non-one seed wins the other one, there's a chance. (A potential host) has to have put in a bid to host a Super Regional. ... We put in a bid to host a regional and Super Regional."

The winner of the Charlottesville regional is bracketed with the winner of the Lubbock regional, which is being hosted by top seed Texas Tech.

Blast from the past

Former Tennessee shortstop Chris Burke provided insight on the NCAA selection show on ESPNU on Monday. Burke was on the Volunteers team that topped the Pirates in the Super Regional at Grainger Stadium in Kinston in 2001.

Godwin has crossed paths with Burke, who played in the majors for Houston, Arizona and San Diego from 2004 to 2009.

"I've seen him while I was coaching in the SEC," Godwin said. "He does a lot of the SEC games. When I was at Ole Miss, I ran into him a lot. The first time I ever met him in person, we talked about it and he remembered it vividly.

"He actually played against Chad Tracy (former ECU slugger) in the major leagues. He remembered it vividly, like I do. It was a great experience for him. He really remembered the crowd, how intense it was to play in Kinston that year. ... He was the 10th pick overall (in the 2001 MLB draft). He was a really good player."

Short trips to Wilson, Kinston

ECU's former baseball facility, Harrington Field, wasn't suited to host postseason play, so ECU played its regional at Fleming Stadium in Wilson in 2001.

The Pirates opened with a 7-0 win over Maryland-Baltimore County before taking a 12-8 triumph over South Florida. ECU turned back Winthrop 7-3 in the regional final.

"We actually didn't stay in Wilson and we didn't stay in Kinston," Godwin recalled. "We just stayed in our own beds and we would just drive over to the regional and the Super Regional. ... We got some rain on that Saturday. I think our game was supposed to start at 3 (p.m.) and we ended up starting at like nine o'clock."

The Pirates went 47-15 in Godwin's senior season. He led the club in homers that year with 15.

Snapshot of Bryant

The Bulldogs of the Northeast Conference are 47-10 coming into the matchup with the Pirates (34-21-1). Bryant is the No. 2 seed. ECU is the third seed.

Godwin has done his homework on today's foe.

"They've got a really good coach (Steve Owens), who has been successful at some other schools (Cortland, 1992-1999 and Le Moyne, 2000-2010)," Godwin said. "They were in a regional two years ago down at LSU. They've been in the postseason. It's not like their first trip. They've got a really good Friday night guy (sophomore right-hander James Karinchak, 12-2, 2.04 earned run average) who we'll face who's a power arm, 90-94 miles per hour with a good breaking ball. They're very good offensively. They're hitting like .324 as a team. One guy has double-digit home runs (Matt Albanese, 11). We'll need to play well. They're good. You don't win 47 games by accident."

Pitching roles established

The Pirates have played 56 games this season. Godwin will stick with the personnel that helped the Pirates earn the program's 28th trip into NCAA tournament play.

"(Evan) Kruczynski is going to go game one and Jimmy (Boyd) will go game two," he said.

Joe Ingle remains in the closer's role despite some late season struggles.

"The guy has saved 20 games for us in two years," Godwin said. "He's going to have the ball at the end of the game. Like everything else like a hitter goes into a slump nobody's perfect. Matt Harvey had a 6.50 ERA and then all of a sudden he threw seven innings and doesn't give up a run. They're the same guys. They haven't executed for a couple of times out. Joe's a stud. He's going to be out there when the game is on the line."

Cavs playing in opener

The host team determines game times for the regionals. Virginia meets William & Mary at 11 a.m. today.

"The host team has a choice of which game they want to play," Godwin said. "It's a little bit abnormal. There are definitely some schools that do it. I know Paul Mainieri at LSU does it (plays the first game). (Virginia coach Brian) O'Connor worked for Mainieri at Notre Dame. ... You play the first game if there's weather then you still have a majority of the day to play your game even if the other team doesn't. You're going to get more rest if you play the first game."

There's a 70 percent chance of rain in Charlottesville today, a factor which prompted officials to advance the start times for both games. The Cavs were originally scheduled to take on the Tribe at 1 p.m. with the ECU-Bryant matchup beginning at 6 p.m.

Many host teams like to play the nightcap when their fan support will be at its greatest.

Different scenario

Losses to Columbia and Florida International eliminated the Pirates from the Coral Gables regional in two games in 2015.

That team, with its short roster, spent a lot of energy in a 4-0 run to the AAC tournament title.

"We're in a much better place physically and mentally," Godwin said. "Our guys last year didn't have anything left in the tank. This year, Parker Lamm is almost 100 percent. He's been nicked up for the past six weeks or so. We're physically fresh. We really owe it to the tournament. We got plenty of time off. It's a difference, even if you practice. Practice is different as compared to a nine-inning battle with another team who's trying to win and you're trying to win. We're definitely much fresher than we were last year."

Three from AAC

The AAC has three teams in the NCAA Tournament. Connecticut (37-23) is the No. 3 seed in the Gainesville, FL, regional and is scheduled to meet Georgia Tech (36-23). Regular season champion Tulane (39-19) is the No. 2 seed in the Oxford, MS, regional and plays Boston College (31-20).

Godwin felt the league was treated fairly by the selection committee.

"Houston (36-23) would have been the next one in," said the Pirates coach and alumnus. "They just didn't have quite a good enough RPI (58th). They just had a stint where they didn't play well, kind of in the middle of the season. I thought the league would get three teams in once us and Tulane lost and didn't win the conference tournament. If one of us had won the conference tournament, to be honest, it would probably would just have been two."

Been there

ECU is familiar with Virginia's Davenport Field, having taken two of three from the Cavaliers there when the season was young.

That and a couple of dollars will get the Pirates a biscuit in the environs of Mr. Jefferson's university.

"It's some value that we've been to their stadium before and played on their field," Godwin said. "It's not going to be the difference in winning and losing a game. I'm sure there's a comfort factor in having been here but I said the same thing about the conference tournament this year, that we had won it. We'd been there, stayed at the same hotel and that didn't work out very well for us, so I don't know how much it goes into play but it's nice that we've been here before."

Pirates from the neighboring commonwealth should feel the love.

"We've got a bunch of guys from Virginia so their families will be able to travel and see them play," Godwin said.

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