Coach Billy Godwin
(Photo: ECU SID)
Billy Godwin says a college baseball
coach could make good use of a crystal ball. With the major league
baseball draft beginning today, the East Carolina coach said he has
tried to anticipate the voids that will result and compensate through
"One thing we have to do as coaches, we
have to kind of be fortune tellers and kind of plan for it," Godwin
said. "Ryan Wood (second baseman) and Justin Bristow (right-handed
pitcher) are two guys who are juniors who have the ability to go in the
top 10 rounds."
Wood hit .306 in 2008 with 13 home runs
and 51 RBI's. Bristow was 9-2 with a 3.07 earned run average.
"We'd like to have both of those kids
back but when you can get inside the top 10 rounds, you've got decisions
to make that affect your goals," Godwin said. "I think that's what these
kids have to do."
Godwin has met with both players and
talked about potential options.
"We kind of weighed out the pros and
cons," said the Pirates coach. "I think it's up to them and their
families from here on out. I think there's a good shot that those guys
Godwin also expects some ECU seniors to
"I think (Harrison) Eldridge certainly
could," Godwin said. "T.J. Hose. Josh Ruhlman — there's been some
interest in him and Corey Kemp (catcher). And with the tournament Jamie
Ray had, he may have turned some heads."
Eldridge hit a team-high .352 as a
senior and also led the Pirates with 32 stolen bases. Hose, a
right-hander, was 7-4 with a 4.46 ERA. Ruhlman, a lefty who transferred
from Central Michigan after his sophomore season, was 4-4 for the
Pirates this year with a 3.26 ERA.
Kemp hit .341 and topped the team in
homers (18) and RBI's (72). Ray hit .350 with seven homers and 53 RBI's.
Incoming class arriving intact?
While ECU will have to deal with a
large number of departing players, Godwin's fortune teller instincts and
insider information tell him that his incoming recruits should be
arriving to help fill those voids.
"We went into this year and probably
seven of our 12 signees were getting some kind of pro interest and they
still are," Godwin said. "In talking with them and educating them on
school, I feel very confident that we're not going to get hit very hard
in the draft based on the feedback I've gotten from those kids and their
"They all want to be a part of what
we're doing at East Carolina. Certainly, if something dramatic happened
financially they would have to consider it but I think we've done a good
job of educating them on the value of coming to East Carolina and what
our program offers them.
"If we don't get hit very hard or I
don't have any surprises there's a good shot we could land our entire
recruiting class on campus."
Pecking order validated
The regional hosted by Coastal Carolina
went exactly according to seeding in terms of the order of elimination
of the four teams involved. Fourth-seeded Columbia lost twice in the
double-elimination event and was out. Alabama, the third seed, was next
to go as the Crimson Tide was paid back with interest for a 16-3 first
round conquest of second-seeded ECU.
The Pirates battered the Tide 16-1 on
Sunday before the top-seeded Chanticleers outscored ECU 24-11 to emerge
unscathed at home and head for the best-of-three Super Regional in Cary
Godwin said the 28-run disparity in
margin of victory in the two Alabama games is testimony to the
occasionally strange nature of baseball.
"Things happen in the course of a game
where games can get away from you," Godwin said. "The score sometimes
can not be indicative of the true level of abilities on the field. It's
a really strange game sometimes.
"If you look at some things that
happened in our season. We got beat by Houston pretty good on Friday
night and we bounced back and beat them pretty good on Saturday. Same
thing at South Carolina to open the year. I don't really have a great
answer for it.
"The only thing I can focus on is how
proud I was of our guys. They went in there with a little bit to prove.
I thought there were two huge key factors (in the second Alabama game).
One was Justin Bristow. I thought he was absolutely outstanding.
"And the first inning we got a lead
that kind of got us up. Then Bristow just took control and we kind of
played with the lead."
Bristow, of course, transferred from
Auburn, the Tide's opposite number in an intense in-state rivalry.
"I'm sure it probably had something to
do with it because he told me before the game that he had probably one
of his worst outings of his career against Alabama the year before,"
Godwin said. "I think it probably had a little something to do with it,
but Justin was capable of doing that with or without motivation."
Godwin on Cary Super Regional
Although Coach Godwin didn't have North
Carolina on the schedule this season, he is familiar with the Tar Heels
from several meetings last season. So he has some insight on the Super
Regional which will send Coastal Carolina to the USA Baseball Center in
Cary to face UNC-Chapel Hill.
Godwin was an assistant to current
North Carolina coach Mike Fox at North Carolina Wesleyan.
"I think (North Carolina) has got an
elite level of pitching that probably nobody in the country has," Godwin
said. "I guess, according to the old adage, that good pitching beats
"I think Coastal is a very balanced
team. They've got a good blend of speed and power and they're really
athletic. It will be an interesting matchup. I'd be curious to see how
they do against an elite level pitching staff that North Carolina is
going to have."
Godwin also thinks Rice, Conference
USA's remaining entry, has sufficient talent and experience plus the
advantage of playing at home in the Super Regional to stand a solid
chance in the tournament.
Omaha trip starts on the mound
Godwin, of course, would much rather be
actively involved in the NCAA Tournament than analyzing matchups at this
point. He has met with returning Pirate players collectively and
individually to get them focused on improving their performance to get
them to their desired destination.
Almost as soon as the final out in the
Conway, SC, regional was made, Godwin was moving ahead.
"I personally am not going to rest
until we get our program to Omaha, playing for a national title," he
said. "That's my personal goal that our coaching staff is committed to
and our players are committed to.
"If you ask me if our season was
disappointing — yes — but you know what, it's going to be disappointing
for everybody but one club and that's the team that wins the national
title. Overall, I guess I was very pleased with the year.
"Am I happy that it ended in the way it
ended and the timing that it ended? No. But you look at college
baseball. Everybody is good now. Everybody. For us to win 42 games and
beat some of the people we did and do some of the things we did, I'm
pleased with that."
One needs only to point out that
two-time defending champion Oregon State and perennial NCAA Tournament
fixture Clemson did not make the field to realize that the Pirates had
another exceptional season as they made the Diamond Dance for the ninth
time in the last 10 years.
"All it is for me — it's a solid
foundation to continue to keep taking steps forward as we continue to
try and reach our goal of going to Omaha," said Godwin.
The NCAA and Omaha have reached an
agreement that will keep the College World Series in the city through
2030. That gives Godwin and the Pirates plenty of time to fulfill their
Godwin knows it's special to be that
last team standing. He was an assistant at North Carolina Wesleyan when
the Bishops won the NCAA Division III championship in 1989. He won an
independent school state title as head coach at Enfield Academy in 1994.
Two of his former players at Louisburg College played prominent roles in
Mount Olive's NCAA Division II national title this year.
He's talked with his players about what
it takes to get to Omaha. That includes the difference in regular season
performance that distinguishes a number two seed from a number one seed
and regional host.
"That's something that I really
emphasized to our guys in the meetings that I just concluded is how
close we were and are," Godwin said. "We have to realize that as a
program that winning two or three or maybe four or whatever games that
give us that opportunity to enjoy those same benefits of hosting. It's
such a definite advantage."
Godwin already has been working to
cultivate thought patterns for next year.
"It's tough to do as a coach," he said.
"But it's important that we turn the page and start to prepare. That's
what good programs do. I kind of get fueled on failure. I'm not saying
our season was a failure but we didn't reach what we wanted to reach.
"The first thing I did was meet with
our club and get their minds focused on what we have to do next year. We
talked about the things we have to do next year to be successful. We've
met (as a coaching staff) deciding where we are going recruiting and
what we have to do to continue to get that level of athlete that we want
at East Carolina."
Godwin anticipates that his coaching
staff will continue to work together.
"Everybody around the program has high
expectations, but I can assure you this — nobody has higher expectations
than I do," said Godwin. "They'll always remain high and we'll continue
to bust our rear ends until those expectations are met.
"It's like I told my team at Louisburg
when we went to the College World Series my third year at Louisburg. You
know, 'Now don't be satisfied to go — we're going to win.' I think the
big key for us — and you saw it this year — that will separate us is on
"You started to see that with some of
the freshmen we brought in. I personally think next year's freshmen
class is as talented if not better. When we can combine those two forces
and get this thing going I think you're going to see the consistency
that everybody wants to see because pitching is where it all starts."