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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
By Brian Bailey
WNCT-TV 9 Sports Director

Pirates got a lift from No. 23

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.

East Carolina’s 4-3 win over Maryland on Sunday clinched the title for the Pirates in the 13th annual Keith LeClair Classic.

The Pirates and Maryland both finished 2-1 in the event, but the Pirates claimed the crown by virtue of their head-to-head defeat of the Terrapins.

Southeastern Louisiana and Tennessee were both 1-2. The Volunteers' lone win over the weekend came against East Carolina on Saturday.

It was the Pirates' fourth straight LeClair Classic title.

ECU coach Cliff Godwin joked about winning the event after the victory over Maryland.

“Hey, you give us the trophy, Brian,” Godwin said. “I’ll take the trophy but, I’m proud of our guys. Just because the way they persevered… I mean you guys saw the game. I mean how it was just tough early and nothing was going our way. Then all of a sudden, boom, we get a big hit and then you know, the guys started feeling better about themselves.”

Godwin knew going into the weekend that all three teams coming in had great talent. His team came into Friday after losing midweek to Elon, a team that the Pirates had beaten 12 straight times.

The Pirates won in walk-off fashion in Friday’s opener against Southeastern Louisiana. Turner Brown, who is quickly becoming Mr. Clutch in his first year with ECU, drove in a pair of runs in the bottom of the 9th inning to lift the Pirates to the 2-1 win.

Despite temperatures that were dropping quickly, Godwin took off his jacket to coach third in the 9th with his team trailing 1-0. I told several near me that Godwin did so to show the number 23 he was wearing, hoping for a little divine intervention.

I think he got it, as the Pirates rallied to win. Godwin thought so, too.

“I took my jacket off so everybody could see '23' in the 9th to kind of switch up the mojo,” said Godwin with a smile. “So I think Coach LeClair had a hand in it too. You know we showed them a highlight video about Coach LeClair and what he meant to this program and they know how much it means to me and I think they try too hard.

"I know that sounds crazy but I really thought we played like that.”

The Pirates opened the game with an error on Saturday against Tennessee. It was the first of what turned out to be a four-error day as the Pirates fell to the Vols 5-2.

With Southeastern Louisiana’s win over Tennessee in Sunday’s opener, the ECU-Maryland game was for the Classic championship.

The Pirates continued to have trouble scoring runs until Eric Tyler’s two-run homer in the 6th tied the game with Maryland.

The game was tied 3-3 in the eighth, when freshman Donya Williams-Sutton plated Tyler with a shot to the opposite field that proved to be the game-winner.

The story of the 4-3 win over the Terps was Joe Ingle.

The Pirate closer went 3 2/3 innings, giving up just one run on two hits. He struck out a career high 9 batters in picking up the win.

“Coach told me this earlier today, to get ready for the fifth inning or sixth inning,” said Ingle. “I mean he was right. Jimmy Boyd did a great job giving up just two runs. It was a true team win today.”

For Godwin, memories of his former coach flowed all weekend, especially when Lynn LeClair and Keith’s two children, J.D. and Audrey, threw out the first pitch on Saturday.

“It’s real special to have Lynn come back and J. D. and Audrey, you know seeing them growing up,” said Godwin. “I mean when I was a player here, they were running around and they were lower than my knees and now they’re grown-ups. Our guys know about Coach LeClair. They’ve all read 'Coaching Third' and know how special it is to me and to this program. It’s really special.”

It will always be special for many around the Pirate baseball program. Number 23 lives forever at East Carolina.


E-mail Brian Bailey

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