(ECU SID image)
lost its opening game of the
Conference USA baseball tournament 11-3 to nationally-ranked Rice on
Wednesday but the Pirates still control their postseason fate going into
a noon start (EDT) with Southern Miss today.
The ECU-Rice matchup at the University
of Houston's Cougar Field was essentially window dressing in terms of
determining the tournament champion and earning the corresponding
automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
In C-USA's new six-team, pool-play
format, there are two pods of three schools each. Rice, Marshall and
Houston make up pod number one. The Pirates, Southern Miss and Memphis
make up pod number two. The teams with the best record in each pod will
meet in the championship game at 8 p.m. (EDT) on Saturday night (TV: CBS
Each team went into the tournament
guaranteed three games. Teams in each pod will play the two teams in
their pod and one team outside its pod. The team with the best composite
record in each pod will advance to the championship game. Two-way ties
in a pod will be resolved based on head-to-head play. In case of a
three-way tie, the highest seed will advance.
The higher seed will be the home team
in games on the first and third days of the tournament as well as the
championship game. Teams that were the visitors on day one will be the
home team on day two. ECU will be the home team today. Coach Billy
Godwin plans to start junior right-hander Seth Maness (9-3, 4,52 earned
run average) against the Golden Eagles.
"We came into the tournament knowing we
had to win our pool to advance to the championship game," Godwin said.
"Your pool is the most important two games. If you win those two games,
you're in the championship game regardless of what you do in the out of
The out of pool games give teams a
chance to enhance their NCAA resumes in terms of their ratings power
indices. ECU's RPI will not get the Pirates into the NCAA Tournament so
the matchup with the Owls was pretty meaningless. Godwin and his club
know the C-USA tournament championship is their ticket to an NCAA
Godwin said Rice and Southern Miss, the
top two seeds, may get NCAA bids regardless of whether or not they win
the league event. He figures the other four teams must get C-USA's
automatic berth to make the NCAA field.
"Coming in, we weren't going to throw
anything away but we were going to put all our eggs in the basket of
winning our pool, which is Southern Miss and Memphis," Godwin said.
Favre weighs in
Former Southern Miss quarterback Brett
Favre reportedly told the Golden Eagles baseball team that if they make
the College World Series for the second straight year that he would play
another season for the Minnesota Vikings.
"I hadn't heard that," Godwin said.
"The important thing is that we have to win and we knew that coming in
the way we set up the tournament. We didn't feel like in an out of pool
game (Rice, Wednesday) that we wanted to use what we considered our
"Now we threw some guys that certainly
should have gone out there and competed because they wear a Pirate
uniform. They give us a chance but we knew — and I told our guys — that
we needed to hit (Wednesday).
"I thought we swung the bat okay. We
just didn't get any timely hits and Rice played very well."
Kyle Roller's home run in the top of
the first gave ECU a brief 1-0 lead but the Owls answered with three
runs in the bottom of the frame.
Southern Miss swept the Pirates in a
three-game series May 7-9 in Hattiesburg. Maness went 5 2/3 innings in
an 8-2 loss on May 8, allowing
11 hits and three earned runs.
"Seth gives us a chance," Godwin said.
"If we can get those timely hits, we've got as good a chance to beat
them as anybody. I thought he threw very well against them down there.
We didn't back him up and play good defense behind him.
"It's important that we bring all three
phases of the game — defense, hitting and, certainly, with him on the
mound, you feel you're going to get a quality-pitched game. ... He
brings some confidence to our team when he's on the mound."
ECU can't give up big innings
Southern Miss is already 1-0 in pod
play by virtue of an 8-2 win over Memphis on Wednesday. The Golden
Eagles scored six runs in the fourth inning.
"They can be explosive," Godwin said of
Southern Miss. "They had four home runs from four different guys. I
don't think they're a big speed team. What you've got to do against them
is really minimize damage. You can't give up the big inning. They can
feed on that.
"I saw that when we played them. The
big inning is what killed us there. It was the fact that we couldn't
minimize the damage. That's what you can not do. You can't go up there
and let them hang up three or four runs in an inning. That's tough to
come back from.
"We've got to do a good job containing
them. They're a good offensive club. They can strike anywhere in that
lineup. But I also think we're a good offensive club. If we do the
things we need to do, we should be fine."
Rice had three innings on Wednesday in
which it scored three or more runs.
"In a big inning, you can always go
back and there's either going to be one of three things — an error, a
walk or a hit by pitch," Godwin said. "I think we walked two guys in
that (first) inning when they came back and scored three.
"You just can't do that with a good
offensive club. They're good enough on their own."
Wooten playing shortstop
Pirate freshman John Wooten was brought
into the ECU program as a corner infielder. Although he was expected to
challenge for playing time at first base, personnel issues have resulted
in Wooten relocating at shortstop.
"I haven't made any excuses through
this whole thing and I'm not going to start now," Godwin said. "John
Wooten is the best option we have. He's done an outstanding job there.
"I wouldn't say John Wooten's career at
East Carolina after this year is going to be at shortstop but he goes
out there every day. He brings intensity to the table and he's playing
the position as well as he can."
Early to bed, early to rise
The Pirates had a 10 p.m. curfew, local
time, on Wednesday night in preparation for today's early start.
"We'll make sure our guys get ample
rest," Godwin said. "We'll meet at 6:45 (a.m.) for breakfast, make sure
they're fueled up and ready to go.
"One of the things we did because we
knew we were going to play some early games was adjust our schedule. Our
practice was at nine o'clock (a.m.) the other day when we got here so we
were up and working early. I think that's important. We kind of changed
our kids' schedule some. Our curfew is at 10. Usually, it's at 11.
"We're putting them on a little more of
a disciplined schedule. We're putting them to bed early. They're getting
up early, but they're still getting their rest."
There won't likely be a lot of crowd
energy for the players to draw from when Southern Miss and East Carolina
get underway before lunch today.
"The environment is not going to be
special unless the host team plays," Godwin said. "It's been that way
everywhere we've been. I'm in my fifth year now. When the host team
plays, you've got a good environment. ... With Rice here today, we
probably had four or five hundred (fans), but no more than that."
Host Houston won the nightcap
Wednesday, 11-7, over Marshall.
Friday starter TBA
Godwin hasn't named a starting pitcher
for Friday when the Pirates are looking at another noon (EDT) start
against Memphis. Ideally, the Pirate skipper's options would include
junior right-hander Zach Woods (8-4, 4.73) and/or sophomore left-hander
Kevin Brandt (3-7, 5.28).
"Whoever's left over after (Thursday),"
Godwin said. "One thing we've found in the postseason is watching other
teams and how they react to certain pitchers is an advantage in a
"To me, it's about matchups. We could
start Brandt or Woods. ... Kevin probably pitched the best game of the
year for himself earlier in the year so there's some confidence there."
Brandt pitched a complete game in
a 3-2 ECU win at Memphis on
"We'll watch Memphis again," Godwin
said. "It's just who gives us the best matchups. I think either one of
those guys are a good matchup. It's just again, who gives us the best
chance to win. All I try to do is survive and move on and figure it out
the next day.
"I can promise you this. I'm not
bringing anybody home rested in my back pocket."