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College Sports in the Carolinas

View from the East
Monday, May 10, 2004

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Pulling against the enemy has twist for Godwin


He wears No. 23, as his coach at East Carolina, Keith LeClair, used to do. Former Pirate slugger Cliff Godwin was back home last Tuesday night in the final game at old Harrington Field as an assistant coach for the UNC-Wilmington Seahawks.

Godwin’s last game as a collegian was in the super regional at Kinston in 2001, a 6-3 ECU loss to a Tennessee team that, coincidently, included current Pirates head coach Randy Mazey as a Volunteer assistant.

Since then, Godwin, a native of Snow Hill, has played two seasons for the Gateway Grizzlies of the Frontier League and spent a year as an assistant coach at Kinston High.

He’s working with the catchers and assisting with hitters in his first year at UNCW.

The Seahawks stopped ECU’s 19-game winning streak in impressive fashion, pounding out 18 hits and clubbing five home runs in a 15-5 win in the final game before work began on a new $8 million facility that will be the future home of Pirate baseball.

Godwin had made the trip back to ECU on April 14 when the Seahawks took a 1-0 lead in a game that was eventually rained out. Going into Tuesday night’s game at UNCW, ECU has lost four in a row to the Seahawks. ECU, which leads the series 55-49, last defeated UNCW on May 1, 2002, in Greenville by a 3-1 score.

The time was right for another Seahawks win last Tuesday night.

“East Carolina is a very good team,” Godwin said. “I think we caught him on a prime night. Our guys really played hard and played with some intensity and enthusiasm. They swung the bats good. We can be pretty good but we can also play bad. But we played pretty good tonight.”

Godwin didn’t figure the loss would get the Pirates down.

“East Carolina will pick it up I’m sure and be right back on track,” he said.

Sure enough, ECU extended its Conference USA record winning streak to 21 games with a sweep at Saint Louis over the weekend.

And that sets the stage for another ECU-UNCW matchup at Brooks Field in the Port City on Tuesday at 7 p.m., another mild case of mixed emotions for Godwin, who hit 15 home runs as a senior in ECU’s 47-13 season in 2001.

“It feels weird ... ,” Godwin said. “I got so many familiar faces. All of the seniors this year on East Carolina’s team were freshmen when I played. ... John Poppert, Ryan Jones, Jamie Paige and several others. It’s weird to be pulling against those guys because three years ago they were on my side.”

Another pearl from Earl and the dugout shuffle

I enjoyed talking with former ECU coach Earl Smith about the early days at the site of ECU’s Harrington Field. Coach Smith said his Pirates initially used the dugout on the third base side.

“But we got to thinking about it and realized it was warmer in the first base dugout on those cold days in early spring because the sun was shining in there,” he said. “We thought that might be more comfortable and maybe give us a little advantage.”

ECU has been on both sides of the dugout issue. Gary Overton, who guided the Pirates to a program record 427 wins from 1985 to 1997, preferred the third base side.

“The crowd filed in on that side and people tended to congregate over there,” Overton said. “We felt that side had a little better home effect.”

Under LeClair, who took the helm following Overton, the Pirates went back to the first base dugout.

“Not speaking for Coach LeClair, but I recall him telling me that he did that because the batting cages were on that side — on the right field side — and he did it to have access to that,” Overton said.

Hall of famers

No one on the selection committee has asked me but I agree wholeheartedly with Coach LeClair’s recent column that Gary Overton belongs in the ECU hall of fame.

Other baseball candidates who come to mind are former players Pat Watkins and Winfred Johnson, both of whom were first team All America selections. Watkins made it in 1993 and went on to a pro career that included stints in the majors. Johnson made it in 1985, the year he hit an ECU season record 22 home runs, a mark that may fall in the coming weeks.

I guess it’s just a matter of time before Robert Jones, the outstanding linebacker from the 1991 football team, is tapped.

Perhaps some hall of fame consideration ought to be given as well for Ken Smith, who died too young last week of a heart attack at age 55. He was a great ambassador for ECU as sports information director and a pioneer on the Pirate Sports Network.

Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.

Click here to dig into Al Myatt's Bonesville archives.

02/23/2007 12:45:39 AM

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