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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, March 27, 2012

By Brian Bailey

League race a free for all after week one

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.

Throughout Billy Godwin’s career as baseball coach at East Carolina, his team has won when it needed to most. That trend continued on Sunday when East Carolina rolled past Central Florida 15-6 in Orlando.

“If that was the case I’d give that speech every game,” joked Godwin. “It’s really a situation where you tell the guys that we are all in it together. We just want them to focus harder. We don’t want to try harder because sometimes that results in a negative.

"We lost a close game on Friday and then let one get away after we had the lead on Saturday. So the way we bounced back was a good sign.”

The highlights for the Pirates were many. Junior Jharel Cotton collected a career-best 11 strikeouts in recording his fifth win against no losses. Cotton worked seven strong innings, giving up just two earned runs and scattering ten hits.

On offense, five East Carolina hitters had multiple hit games as a part of the 19-hit attack. Jack Reinheimer was the star. The sophomore shortstop was 5-6 from his leadoff slot with five runs scored. Jay Cannon, John Wooten and Tim Younger all had a trio of hits.

Friday’s games in conference play are so pivotal. Teams throw their best arms, wanting to get that upper hand in the series with the game one victory.

UCF took the opener from the Pirates in a 2-1 pitcher’s duel.

Kevin Brandt certainly did his part Friday night. Brandt gave up just a pair of runs (one earned) in the complete game outing. He allowed just one extra base hit and five singles. Two of those five singles were infield hits.

“I thought he was outstanding,” said Godwin. “The difference in that game is that they came up with a big hit and we didn’t. They made a nice defensive play on the ball that (Chase) McDonald hit. They executed and we weren’t able to.

"If Kevin pitches like that every Friday night we’ll win a lot of baseball games.”

The main hiccup to the season so far has been East Carolina's pitching in midweek games.

“Our problems have come when we have tried to find that fifth starter,” said Godwin. “We haven’t found that guy yet. We go about seven or eight strong, but we need more. We knew depth was going to be an issue.”

The Pirates have another big midweek game this week against North Carolina State. The Pirates beat the Wolfpack in Greenville last week 6-5. A win on Wednesday in Raleigh would sweep the season series for ECU.

“It would be great because, from a fan standpoint, it’s N.C. State,” said Godwin. “But really, it would be great because they are a good club. They have an outstanding RPI and that will help us down the road. That’s why our midweek games are so important. All of the teams we play midweek, like UNC, N.C. State, Elon, UNC-Wilmington, etc., … they all usually have strong RPIs.”

Midweek games have been a bit of an issue on the mound. Godwin says it’s certainly a work in progress at this point.

The good news from Conference USA over the weekend is that there weren’t any sweeps. Despite losing two out of three against UCF, the Pirates are just a game out of first place after the first weekend.

“There are no days off in this league,” said Godwin. “You have to bring your “A” game every time out. As a competitor I really like that. It was a good first weekend. Everybody is either 2-1 or 1-2 and that shows how even things are.”

Next up for East Carolina in league play, UAB pays a visit to Greenville for a weekend series starting on Friday. The Blazers opened Conference USA action by taking two out three from Marshall at home.

That may be the key to taking this Conference USA regular season title. Teams have to win their home series and then steal a few on the road.

Conference USA continues as one of the top baseball leagues in the nation. The regular season race should be a rollercoaster ride each and every weekend.

The Blazers are on the clock.


E-mail Brian Bailey.

PAGE UPDATED 03/26/12 11:25 PM.

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