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CHRONICLING EAST CAROLINA & CONFERENCE USA SPORTS
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View from the 'ville
Friday, February 18, 2011

By Al Myatt

It's time to ... Play Ball!

A pair of senior right-
handers will face each other
today on the mound. Seth
Maness, above, will start for
East Carolina, while Phil
Klein, below, gets the nod
for Youngstown State.
(ECU SID and YSU SID images)
 

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By Al Myatt
©2011 Bonesville.net
All rights reserved.

East Carolina baseball coach Billy Godwin, his staff and players are ready to start that portion of the year for which they spend the rest of the year preparing. The Pirates open the season at 3 p.m. today against Youngstown State at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

"It's exciting," Godwin said. "One thing that I see that maybe the average fan doesn't see is all the hard work they pour in to prepare. We're just excited to be able to put a lineup out there. Hopefully, we'll benefit from all their hard work."

The visiting Penguins may not grab the fan base like some recent season openers with South Carolina or Virginia but Godwin isn't taking anything for granted.

"Anybody who knows anything about baseball knows that anything can happen," said the Pirates coach. "I know this for a fact — they're going to be well-coached. I know Richie Pasquale personally. He's a good baseball man. He knows the game. He's going to prepare his kids to the utmost of their abilities. They're going to throw some good guys on the mound. They've got some returners who can run it up there pretty good. It's going to be a challenge."

Youngstown has played in Greenville before. Godwin knew Pasquale when the Pirates coach was at Louisburg and Pasquale was a volunteer assistant at Pitt. Godwin had a couple of players who went to play for the Panthers from the junior college level and he became friends with Pasquale, who is entering his fourth season at Youngstown.

"When he went to Youngstown State, I wrote him a congratulations note," said the Pirates coach. "We've stayed in touch, seen each other. As scheduling comes up and we see coaches, they were going to Georgia Tech and they had played some people to open the year so we said, 'Why don't you come to Greenville? You guys used to come down here.' They were all in. That's kind of how it happened really, a personal relationship with him led to us playing him."

Godwin has his scouting report on the Penguins, who were picked to finish fifth in the Horizon League, but his real focus is on his own club.

"We tend to spend more time — not on Youngstown State and what they do — but doing what Pirate baseball is about and how we want to play," Godwin said. "That's kind of what we've focused on. I tell them a lot of times that we're not playing the people in the other dugout, we're playing the ball. It's got 108 stitches and when it comes to you, you've got to catch it, you've got to throw it, you've got to throw it over the plate and when it comes across the plate, you've got to hit it."

Roszel working with hurlers

That part about throwing it over the plate is where new ECU pitching coach Dan Roszel comes in. Godwin brought Roszel in from College of Charleston where he helped the Cougars to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament in 2010.

"When I'm speaking about Dan, I can't say enough good things," Godwin said. "His philosophy is very similar to mine. You're going to see our guys work fast. They're going to attack. They're going to be the aggressor. That's going to be a mentality that we've instilled. You're going to see us pitch in, pitch with the fast ball and pitch off the fast ball. I've been real pleased with everything that I've seen that he's done and worked with our guys on as far as getting into that attack mode, being the aggressor and to the point of controlling the running game, improving their fielding.

"People think that all pitchers have to do is just go out there and throw the ball over the plate with something on it, but there's a lot more to it than that. They've got to know certain situations, pickoff situations, bunt defenses and be able to field their position — all of those things are important and Dan is very thorough in those areas."

Roszel and Godwin won't make a pitch this season but they trust that those who will have learned their lessons well.

"Ultimately, it's up to our players," Godwin said. "Ultimately, our players have to go out and produce."

Maness to the hill today

Senior right-hander Seth Maness, the 2010 pitcher of the year in Conference USA who is 28-8 in his ECU career, will start for the Pirates today.

"He's a tremendous competitor," Godwin said. "His body of work for what he's done here speaks clearly for itself. One thing Seth is not going to do, he's not going to beat himself. When he goes on the mound, he's not going to beat himself by walking guys, hitting guys, throwing balls away or not fielding his position. He's going to attack the zone. He's going to be a three-pitch guy and he's a great athlete."

The plan is for senior righty Zach Woods to start Saturday's 2 p.m. game with the Penguins. Woods was the 2010 newcomer of the year in C-USA.

"Zach certainly came into our program last year after a redshirt year and won eight games in virtually a Friday role," Godwin said. "That's tough to do. He's a little bit different from Seth. He's kind of a fast ball, change-up guy. He has to really locate his breaking ball, but he can pitch with his fast ball as good as anybody we have on our pitching staff.

"Michael Wright (junior right-hander) is going to throw Sunday (1 p.m. start). People might expect me to say names like (Brad) Mincey or (Kevin) Brandt or even (Shawn) Armstrong. It's really nothing those guys have done in the preseason and I explained this. It's really more about what Michael has done. Michael has emerged to be quite impressive to be honest."

Wright pitched well in the Cape Cod League in the offseason.

"He seems to be poised to be a different-type guy," Godwin said. "He's got a power arm with a chance to go get guys with electric stuff."

The ECU starters will be on a 90 to 95 pitch count to open the season.

"There's going to be relief," Godwin said. "I don't anticipate anybody throwing a complete game. Certainly Kevin Brandt (junior left-hander) will be the first guy up."

Youngstown may have a relatively large number of left-handed hitters, which could in turn affect who the Pirates bring out of the bullpen. Godwin noted that the Penguins have a lot of freshmen who are an unknown quantity in terms of meaningful scouting data.

Armstrong, a power righty, had an impressive fall camp but an ankle injury to start the spring put him behind. He's is a long relief option. Mincey, who won 10 games in 2009, is a righty who can perform in long relief or as a set-up guy for closer Seth Simmons.

Lefty Jake Harris has been effective in practice and is a situational bullpen possibility.

Bats change but not hitting approach

The NCAA has mandated that metal bats will be less responsive beginning this season. On impact, the new bats will respond more like a wood bat.

That likely will mean considerably fewer home runs in the college game but Godwin said his team's offensive approach will not change.

"We have a pretty simple offensive approach," he said. "It's one that I've had since I've been at East Carolina. We're going to attack balls in the middle part of the plate. ... If a pitch comes in that area, we want to be able to attack that pitch in that area. It's what we call 'flush it up' or 'three contact.' Three contact is squaring it up.

"Hitting is hard enough as it is. What we challenge our guys to do is not get caught up in the result as much as trying to hit the ball hard every time somewhere. You can't steer it. Some people think you can hit it over there or over here but if you hit it hard enough times, good things come your way.

"We're going to have a patient aggressiveness."

Flexible lineup

Roles for the pitchers appear more clearly defined at this point than the remainder of the lineup.

"In my five years here, I've always had nine or 10 guys and those have kind of been the guys I ran with," Godwin said. "In our recruiting efforts, we wanted to improve our depth. We've done that to the point that I really believe you could possibly see as many as three different lineups out of me this weekend."

Some positions are set.

"I know this for a fact," Godwin said. "Zach Wright will catch. Timmy Younger will start at second base. Jack Reinheimer will start at shortstop. Trent Whitehead will start in centerfield. John Wooten will be in the lineup. Corey Thompson will be in the lineup. Where depends on guys like Drew Reynolds, Chris Gosik, Phillip Clark and what they do — those interchangeable pieces. You could see Wooten in left, right, third or first. You could see Thompson at third or first. If Drew Reynolds plays, he'll probably play third for us."

Godwin said the Pirates will see three right-handed starters from Youngstown. Phil Klein, who is 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds, will go Friday. He was 2-4 last season with a 6.51 earned run average and has a peak velocity in the low 90s (miles per hour). Kevin McCulloch is slated to go for the Penguins on Saturday. He made two starts last season with 26 relief appearances, compiling a 1-5 record with a 4.96 ERA. He will throw in the mid-to-upper 80s. The Pirates don't know a lot about Sunday starter Robert Switka, a redshirt sophomore transfer.

Youngsters may be key

Godwin tends to convey a sense of optimism about the potential of this year's team. The Pirates are coming off a 32-27 season in which they missed the NCAA Tournament. Some stalwarts return but the rookie contingent is an important element to team success.

"We're going to need Jack Reinheimer, Drew Reynolds and Chase McDonald to play key roles on this team," Godwin said. "How quick they develop as freshmen is going to be a key. I don't like to throw it on them but it is what it is. They're high level players. They came here expecting to be in our lineup every day and they've worked themselves in position where they're going to be to some degree.

" ... I think the key to our staff is the guy who starts Sunday, Michael Wright/Shawn Armstrong. They both have what I would consider power arms with the potential to have electric stuff. When I say that, they're able to reach low-to-mid-90s in velocity with breaking balls in the 80s. If those guys emerge, ... they're really the two keys going into the year."

Good weather

The Pirates have had good weather for the most part during the preseason and that will likely be an advantage in terms of the matchup with this weekend's visitors from Ohio.

"I think we had 18 practice days and we were really only forced inside on two of our team days," Godwin said. "Certainly this week has been a great week leading up for preparation. We think it's going to be a great weekend weather-wise."

Rain is not in the forecast while the Penguins are in town. A high in the mid-70s is expected today. Temperatures are supposed to be in the mid-to-upper 60s on Saturday and low 60s on Sunday.

E-mail Al Myatt

Al Myatt Archives

02/18/2011 03:52 AM
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