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View from the 'ville
Friday, June 5, 2009

By Al Myatt

Pirate skipper thinks like a Fox

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

The influence of North Carolina baseball coach Mike Fox is partially responsible for East Carolina being in Chapel Hill for the best of three super regional that gets started at noon on Saturday.

That's because ECU coach Billy Godwin served as an assistant to Fox at Division III North Carolina Wesleyan and Godwin credits Fox with influencing his coaching philosophy while on the Bishops' staff in Rocky Mount.

"I learned about discipline," Godwin said. "His teams are always very disciplined. They have tremendous work ethic and he tends to get more out of a student-athlete than maybe was expected. Those are the two big things.

"I challenged our team going into the postseason that we had to be disciplined. That's something that I've carried over from him that I've instilled in my coaching philosophy. I saw how important that was."

Godwin explained more about what he learned from the Tar Heels coach when Wesleyan won the Division III championship in 1989 and finished third in 1990.

"I'm not talking about making the plays at the right time or getting the big hit," Godwin said. "I'm talking about not losing your cool, keep believing, hanging in there — don't let negatives affect you, push through them. It's a nine-inning game — those types of things."

The Pirates put those attributes to work in a 10-9 win in 10 innings over South Carolina for the regional championship after falling behind 6-0 on Monday night. It takes a special group to win three elimination games in the manner that ECU did in the regional, bouncing back from a 12-2 loss to the Gamecocks on Saturday to beat them twice for the title.

"These guys have unbelievable will, desire and they have tremendous character," Godwin said. "Not only are they very talented players, but you don't see a whole lot of finger pointing when we don't do well. You see guys encouraging each other. You see guys not giving up.

"When you add those characteristics with talent, you've got a special group of young men."

Ideally, the Pirates would like to preserve some of the late-game momentum that stirred the crowd of 5,047 at Clark-LeClair Stadium into an emotional frenzy on Monday night.

"Momentum is attitude if you really break it down," Godwin said. "Our guys have a positive attitude now. They have some confidence. We know that just carries over into North Carolina.

"That's going to be a tough place because their fans are going to be there. It's in their back yard. We're going to have to go in there and have more resiliency than we've ever had."

Godwin hasn't been doing anything out of the ordinary as the Pirates (46-18) have been preparing this week.

"We're kind of taking the same approach to what we did last week," said the Pirates coach. "We're not taking anything for granted. We're more in a maintenance mode — stuff that we do all year. We're just trying to cover all the bases and get our guys to feel good about every situation."

ECU is ranked 14th in a pair of polls and 15th in another this week. The Tar Heels (45-16), the No. 4 national seed in the NCAA Tournament, provide a formidable challenge as they seek a fourth straight trip to the College World Series in Omaha.

"We've got to get good starting pitching," Godwin said. "That's where it starts. That's one thing I challenged our team with as we tried to make that comeback through the losers' bracket.

"We're not going to be in a five-game situation. We know that. So we shouldn't be as depleted as maybe we were. Just three games in three days at the most, not five games in three days. So that's a positive side, but the guys who get the ball have got to go out there and give us an opportunity to win into the game so we don't overextend our bullpen — have options and have guys rested as the series goes on.

"It's going to be a good challenge. They've got a good pitching staff. We've got to continue to hit and put runs up. That's going to be more difficult against the type of arms we're going to face but our guys have to continue to be locked in offensively."

Attention to details will be vital, too.

"We've got to do the little things," Godwin said. "We've got to play good defense, run the bases well and execute the situational hitting — the bunting, moving runners — those things."

The Pirates expect to see junior right-hander Alex White in the series. White led D.H. Conley to the state 4-A title in 2005. White is 7-4 with a 4.42 earned run average and is considered a high draft prospect.

"I had a chance to get to know him and his family in the recruiting process when I came here," Godwin said. "He's an outstanding young man. He's a tremendous competitor. He's done great things for the University of North Carolina.

"Again, it will be a great challenge for our players to face a guy like him. He's a very, very fine young man."

Godwin said the Pirates are basically healthy.

"We've got some guys who, by the time Saturday rolls around, physically will be at 80 or 90 percent," Godwin said. "After playing all the games we've played, that's the case with anybody, but when you step on that field and the first pitch is thrown, the adrenaline takes you beyond 100 percent."

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06/17/2009 01:22:07 AM


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