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View from the 'ville
Thursday, February 21, 2008

By Al Myatt

Familiar stage, new actors

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

East Carolina's last baseball trip to South Carolina concluded on June 13, 2004, with a 5-3 loss to the Gamecocks in the second game of an NCAA Super Regional.

It was a game in which former Pirates coach Randy Mazey was widely questioned for using second baseman Trevor Lawhorn in a relief pitching role. It was only Lawhorn's second mound appearance of the season and he wound up yielding a pair of runs and taking the loss.

The 2004 Pirates team set a school record for wins with 51.

But that was then and this is now, said current ECU skipper Billy Godwin as his team prepared to head to Columbia today for the season-opening series with South Carolina which is scheduled to begin with a game on Friday at 3:00 p.m.

"I don't think that (Super Regional) has any effect," Godwin said after practice on Wednesday. "I don't know if any of these guys were here when that happened. I wasn't here.

"I've talked to some of the freshmen. Some of our older guys have played in some pretty tough venues. It's a good college environment. They're passionate about their baseball down there — just like our people are here.

"That's an advantage for them to be playing at home with their home crowd but there's been no history lessons given about 2004."

Gamecocks will return favor

Actually, 2010 has more of an impact on ECU's presence in Columbia this weekend than the Pirates' last Super Regional appearance.

Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner called Godwin to schedule the series.

"Originally, the plans were to open a new stadium," Godwin said. "They wanted a good team to come in. He said something like Texas was originally scheduled and they backed out or something.

"I basically said if you tell me you can come back to Greenville, we'll come — and so they're going to come in 2010. That's really how it worked out."

Wet weather possible

The extended forecast for Columbia is calling for a 70 percent chance of showers on Friday with a high in the low 60's. Chance of rain diminishes over the weekend with the high expected to be in the upper 60s on Saturday and Sunday.

"I've learned a long time ago that I can't control the weather," Godwin said. "Only the Lord controls that so we'll just let him control it. It's like I told Coach Tanner this morning. We know there's a chance of weather on Friday. I said 'Coach, we 're gonna be there and whatever you decide, we're gonna play. We want to play three games.' "

The Pirates coach said it's a good lesson for his team to learn to live with weather delays.

A flexible mindset has value when Mother Nature rearranges schedules.

"That's kind of the reaction I get around my players and give off to them because I don't want them to get real bent out of shape," Godwin said. "They've got to prepare. Just like last year, we were at the regional at North Carolina. We had to sit around and push back. Sometimes a little change is not bad."

Tar Heels missing

East Carolina had two regular season games with North Carolina during 2007 in addition to their matchups in the regional in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels do not appear on ECU's schedule for 2008.

"They entered an agreement with East Carolina prior to me being here that they'd play every other year," said Godwin, who first guided the Pirates during the 2006 season. "I think they play us and Wilmington and then they play Charlotte and Greensboro (the next season). You understand their position. They're sitting in the middle of the state and they're trying to play all the state schools.

"Certainly, it's something that we'd like to see happen (annual games with UNC-Chapel Hill) and we've discussed that. We're trying to address that. They know we want to play every year."

Counting on starters

A trio of right-handers will be heading to the mound in starting roles at Sarge Frye Field this weekend. Senior T.J. Hose is scheduled to start the season opener on Friday, freshman Seth Maness is the game two starter on Saturday and Auburn transfer Justin Bristow is scheduled for game three.

"The key — and I don't think it's a secret — for us to go down and be successful is we've got to get quality innings out of our starting pitching," Godwin said. "They've got to carry us — sixth inning, seven would be tremendous. That's the key to the series is how deep our starters can go.

"It'll be the same in May as it is now but it's a little more important now because we're going to be a lot more protective of their counts and where they're at and not let them sit out there and labor."

The Pirate starters will be on 90- to 100-pitch count limits this weekend.

Hose said the ECU players are glad the season is at hand.

"It's been a long, long spring preparation to get going for this first weekend," Hose said. "There's been a lot of hype already talking about it. Hopefully, we can have a great season.

"It's going to be a great atmosphere there. They're expecting 5,000-plus fans, an SEC-type crowd. It's going to be a great experience for our younger guys, especially, and get them used to the type of atmosphere we're going to expect in the postseason."

Hose said he's been looking forward to the 2008 season since the 2007 season ended in the regional at Chapel Hill.

"I'm just going to go out there and pound the strike zone with three pitches (fastball, slider, change-up) and not try to do too much," Hose said. "Let our defense play. We've got a great defense and go from there."

Maness played at Southern Pines Pinecrest last season.

"I really didn't expect this this early in the season," Maness said. "It's just going to be a good team to throw against and it's going to be fun."

Maness mixes a curve and change with a fastball in the upper 80's (mph).

Bristow was 1-6 with a 9.30 earned run average for Auburn in 2007 but Godwin thinks a new home will help the Richmond product fulfill the promise he showed coming out of high school. Godwin said he thought that Bristow pitched against South Carolina last season.

"I can't really speak on what happened there (at Auburn)." said the ECU coach. "He and I have had some kind of closed-door talks. Sometimes a change of environment really helps a guy with his ability. He's been nothing but good for us.

"We don't really talk about the past, especially when the past isn't what he thought it was going to be. I think the most important thing is that he's here and he's doing well here."

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02/28/2008 12:52:19 AM


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