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