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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, March 1, 2016
By Brian Bailey
WNCT-TV 9 Sports Director

Tone is set for ambitious season

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.

East Carolina baseball coach Cliff Godwin wants to host an NCAA regional. He wants to host a Super Regional, with the ultimate goal of going to Omaha and the College Baseball World Series.

Taking two out of three games from the defending national champions doesn’t guarantee anything. It does, however, set the tone that this ECU team feels it can compete with any other team in the nation.

Godwin’s group is a loose bunch. They seem to enjoy one another and certainly weren’t intimidated one bit at Virginia this past weekend.

After taking the first game in extra innings on Friday, the Pirates had two shots at taking the series.

If anyone thought Friday’s win was a fluke, the Pirates' dominating 6-1 win on Saturday certainly proved otherwise.

Sunday was a bit of a disappointment. It wasn’t so much the 4-2 loss, rather the five errors that East Carolina committed. ECU out-hit UVa 8-6 but the Pirates just couldn’t overcome all the miscues, which isn’t a normal trait of the Cliff Godwin coached club.

“You just can’t make five errors and win,” said Godwin after Sunday’s loss. “We left the bases loaded with one out in one inning. If we at least score one, then it’s a different game late. Still, we brought the tying run to the plate in the 9th and had a shot.”

Taking two out of three from the fourth-ranked team in the nation and the defending national champs vaulted this ECU team into the national spotlight on Monday.

The Pirates were ranked as high as 16th in the polls. That ranking came from The Pirates were also ranked 25th by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers and by Baseball America.

Those were the rewards from two great wins over the reigning College World Series champs.

These Pirates like one another. This team likes to have fun. Godwin is hard-nosed, just like his mentor Keith LeClair. But like LeClair, Godwin also likes a joke or two.

At home plate before Saturday’s game I had the camera rolling as Godwin and Virginia coach Brian O’Connor swapped lineups with the umpires. O’Connor commented on ECU bringing media to the game. Godwin smiled and told the Virginia coach that I was really there for the basketball game that night, when UVa hosted rival North Carolina.

We all laughed, but Godwin was half right. It’s well documented that I am a huge Virginia BASKETBALL fan, dating back to the days of former ECU Director of Athletics Terry Holland’s days with the Cavaliers when I was a youngster growing up in Virginia.

What a day it turned out to be! An East Carolina baseball win and a Cavalier victory over UNC truly made for a day to remember.

In that same pregame huddle O’Connor asked about “Cliff’s Cab.” Godwin spends his Monday mornings toting students to class in an expanded golf cart to drum up support for the baseball team. O’Connor was genuinely interested and both coaches laughed about the concept.

I never heard a ground rule discussed. You see, you never know what goes on in these huddles.

Though disappointed, Godwin saw something to build on in Sunday’s loss, despite all of the miscues.

“They fight,” Godwin added. “They fight. They don’t quit. That’s what we preach all the time. Obviously, I am proud of them for coming up here and winning the series. It’s just disappointing that we had an opportunity to sweep them today and we let it slip away.”

Elon is up next, and then the Pirates welcome Southeast Louisiana, Tennessee and Maryland to town for the annual Keith LeClair Classic.

I asked about the upcoming weekend and got the answer I expected.

“Coach LeClair wouldn’t want us to be thinking about anything but Elon,” Godwin said. “That’s where our focus is, to win every inning against Elon on Wednesday.”

Coach LeClair couldn’t have said it better himself.


E-mail Brian Bailey

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PAGE UPDATED 04/03/16 03:12 PM