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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, February 3, 2008

By Brian Bailey

The goal is, and always will be, Omaha

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.

It’s a place the Pirates have never been to before. It’s Omaha, the Promised Land for college baseball teams.

It’s the goal of many, but the destination for only a select few.

“There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t talk about what our ultimate goal is,” said East Carolina coach Billy Godwin on Friday. Godwin hosted a brief press conference for the media to kick off the start of practice that Sunday.

“Our goal will always be to go to the College World Series and play for a national championship.”

Godwin certainly has a plan. His schedule is top-loaded with home games featuring quality opponents. The Pirates open with eight games at home including the Keith LeClair Classic, which features games against Oklahoma State, St. John’s and College of Charleston. The Pirates will actually play OSU twice when the Cowboys visit.

That opening eight-game home stand is followed by a trio of games in round-robin play at Georgia Southern. The Pirates will play the Eagles, Le Moyne and Indiana in that weekend set of games in Statesboro.

Then it’s back home for nine more games, including three with UCLA and the three-game Conference USA opening series with Central Florida.

Godwin also knows other factors have to play out for his club to get a shot at Omaha.

“Our veterans have to be veterans,” Godwin explained. “They have to come in this year and put the same type of numbers that they’ve been able to put up before here. Guys like Stephen Batts, Brandon Henderson, Drew Schieber, Ryan Wood and those guys have to perform.

"Last year we asked our freshman to come in and perform, and from a pitching perspective we had four guys come in and win 18 games for us and that was huge. We’ll need some of the guys we recruited to come in and step that up.”

“Then we have to all tug on the same side of the rope," Godwin added. "The chemistry is good now. We haven’t gone through any kind of adversity yet, which is usually the case this time of year. But I think it’s important that we all understand that we are fighting for the same goal.”

Godwin will announce which Pirate will wear the No. 23 jersey to honor former coach Keith LeClair on February 14th at the annual “Meet the Pirates Luncheon.” Drew Schieber wore the number last year and could be the first player to wear the number in consecutive years.

“Coach (Godwin) and I talked about it,” said Schieber. “If someone else could have the chance to wear “23” I’d be fine with it. It is such an honor to wear the number to represent a man who did so much for this Pirate program. I’m all for someone else getting the chance to wear the number so they can experience what I did last season.

"If my time is up, I’ll be 110 % behind the guy that wears “23” this season.”

Tradition is a big part of East Carolina baseball. Games in the spring aren’t just athletic contests; rather, they are more of a social meeting place for many, all rallying for a Pirate victory.

“That’s what really makes East Carolina special,” said Godwin. “It goes back to all of the former players and coaches here. Our players understand how important baseball is to this area. We’ve got a great schedule and our thinking is that if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.”

The Pirates opened practice on Sunday with a scrimmage game. The squad will conduct scrimmages each weekend leading up to the opening weekend on February 20th when Monmouth comes to town for a three-game series.

If you’re a Pirate baseball fan, you certainly know the drill. It could be 70 degrees or it could feel like 7 degrees at the ballpark.

Who needs Punxsutawney Phil? The start of Pirate baseball always means that spring is just around the corner!


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02/03/2009 03:32:40 AM


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