East Carolina's travel plans for its
Conference USA baseball series at UAB were adjusted as the No. 16
Pirates returned to Raleigh on Thursday for a flight to Atlanta.
ECU's departure from Raleigh-Durham
International was delayed from its 3 p.m. scheduled takeoff for almost
three hours. Concerned about another potential weather delay at the
Atlanta airport, the Pirates ended up chartering a bus from the Georgia
capital to Birmingham.
The brief aerial hop into the Deep
South turned into a two-and-a-half-hour bus ride.
Coach Billy Godwin expected to have his
team in Birmingham around midnight, over five hours later than the
original projected arrival time.
"We didn't expect to be on the bus this
long but I never heard one of the guys complain," said Godwin en route.
"It's just like, 'OK, what do we have to do?' Whatever they've got to
overcome — flight delays or weather — the kids have done a good job."
The Pirates didn't have any movies for
the Atlanta to Birmingham ride but Godwin said the bus driver provided
Flexibility has been a strong suit for
ECU in its 22-5 start, which included
a 14-4 triumph at recent nemesis
N.C. State on Wednesday night. The Wolfpack had owned a five-game
winning streak over the diamond Bucs.
The Pirates have gotten accustomed to
weather adjustments such as those which resulted in the restructuring of
the series at Marshall last weekend. ECU took its regular season set
with the Thundering Herd two games to one despite a loss in the third
game on Sunday. The Pirates regrouped quickly for
a 15-4 win over Elon at home on
Midweek pitching in the wins over the
Phoenix and the Wolfpack was a positive factor in Godwin's analysis.
"Coming off the Marshall series we had
six pitchers who were throwing well," said the Pirates coach. That group
included Chris Heston, Seth Maness and left-hander Kevin Brandt, who are
scheduled to start in that order against the Blazers.
Brad Mincey improved to 6-1 with the
win at State.
"One key for us is to have eight to 10
pitchers," Godwin said.
What he has seen recently from Patrick
Somers, Mike Anderson, Lance Honeycutt and Mike Wright has given the ECU
coach encouragement in regard to the potential depth of his staff.
"That's a critical thing for us in
terms of depth," Godwin said. "We saw those guys step up for us. It was
in a limited role, but that's very positive. I thought every one of
those guys took a step forward this week."
The Pirates gave their pitchers plenty
of run support in the recent midweek matchups.
Trent Whitehead stepped up with two
home runs and five RBI's in the win over the Wolfpack.
"Trent had an outstanding night,"
Godwin said. "We haven't seen the long ball from him but that three-run
homer was huge in a tight game. That's the type of thing that energizes
a team and we talk about that — doing something early in a game that
will energize the team.
"Drew Schieber had a hit that put us up
Devin Harris hit another three-run
homer for the Bucs in a decisive seven-run third inning at Doak Field.
"When you put those sevens on the
board, that's tough to overcome," Godwin said.
Whitehead added a two-run homer in the
fourth for a 9-0 Pirates lead. Whitehead's .431 average leads the team.
ECU leads C-USA with a 5-1 record. UAB
is 1-2 in the league and 16-10 overall. Games are scheduled for 8 p.m.
tonight, 3 p.m. on Saturday and noon on Sunday.
"I compare (UAB) to Marshall," Godwin
said. "They're an up and coming program. They made their bracket finals
in the conference tournament last year against Houston. Coach (Brian)
Shoop has been there three years and is doing a good job. They've got
some of the same players and their pitching looks better."
The Blazers hit .267 the season before
Shoop arrived. In his first year as head coach, UAB's average rose to
.296 in 2007. The Blazers hit .311 last season and currently have a .335
ECU goes into its second weekend series
without Brandon Henderson, who is hitting .405. The senior first baseman
is recovering from a turned ankle.
"It looks like under the best case
scenario, Brandon would be back in some capacity for the Rice series
(April 10-12 in Greenville)," Godwin said. "In the worst case scenario,
he should be back the following weekend at Tulane."
Godwin said shortstop Dustin Harrington
dealt with a similar ailment in the preseason.
"You've got to be careful in rehab not
to try to do too much — push it too quickly — or you'll make it worse,"
Godwin said. "Brandon is working very diligently in rehab with our
trainer, Zac Womack, every day."
Godwin and the Pirates didn't seem to
mind the inconveniences presented in their adjusted travel arrangements
on Thursday. The extended forecast was calling for better conditions in
Birmingham this weekend.
"This is a loose group," Godwin said.
"They're playing with confidence. We always tell them to respect
everybody they play and respect the game — but don't fear anybody."
Around the horn
ECU basketball coach Mack McCarthy is
in Detroit for the Final Four. ... The Pirate football team will have
its first scrimmage of the spring on Saturday following a workout in
shorts this afternoon. ... Lou Holtz, coaching-legend-turned-football
analyst and father of ECU coach Skip Holtz, will be the featured speaker
this evening as the Pirate program hosts a clinic for high school
coaches. The elder Holtz will address motivation, a subject he deals
with on a regular basis in his entertaining and insightful "pep talk"
segments on ESPN.