NEWS, NOTES &
The Bradsher Beat
Thursday, January 28, 2010
By Bethany Bradsher
Baseball Bucs seek more than
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(Photo: ECU SID)
Every day seems to bring a new honor to the East Carolina baseball team. A
top 20 ranking in one poll, then another, then another. Four preseason
All-Conference USA selections. Senior Kyle Roller was first a preseason
All-American, then ranked as the sixth best player in the nation.
Head coach Billy Godwin doesn’t ignore such accolades entirely. But he is
quick to tell his players this: Those honors are just words that someone
wrote down. At this point, with official preseason practice still two days
away, they don’t have any basis in actual baseball performance.
“There has been a lot of excitement,” Godwin said at ECU’s baseball media
day on Wednesday [Select
audio clip...]. “We’ve gotten some great press early in the
year from some of the national publications. I’ve cautioned them not to read
their press clippings. That’s not going to win us anything. That’s paper.
"I’m always telling
Roller and (Seth) Maness and all these guys who have won great awards, ‘Hey,
what’s that preseason All-America going to get you? And they’re like,
‘Nothing.’ It’s my job to keep them grounded.”
Even as he strives to
keep the 2010 Pirates down to earth, Godwin still enjoys talking about the
talent, the depth on this team. He might not spend much time telling the
players, but he can tell that they’re shaping up into a special group with
the potential to top their Super Regional appearance last season.
After a long and taxing
offseason, the Pirates are finally on the downhill slide to their opening
game on Feb. 19 against Virginia. And as excited as the players are to test
the consensus opinion that they can be national contenders, their coach
might be the most eager one in the clubhouse.
“I think we are riding a
little wave of momentum, but I caution our team that this is a new team and
we have to establish a new identity,” Godwin said. “When the calendar rolls
to January and guys come back, they’re anxious to get started.
"No one’s more anxious
than I am. This is 24 years I’ve been in coaching, and I still feel like I’m
six years old waiting for opening day.”
One advantage that Godwin
admits could be a difference-maker for the Pirates is the depth of their
pitching staff. As he considers his options for a starting rotation, he
still has eight pitchers who could earn a spot, and the ones that don’t will
be a boon to the bullpen.
If Godwin had to assemble
a starting staff for a weekend series right now, it would feature Seth
Maness, Kevin Brandt and Brad Mincey, but he expects players like Sthil
Sowers, Zach Woods and Joseph Hughes to make legitimate bids for starting
spots in the preseason.
“It’s probably the
deepest pitching staff I’ve had in the five years I’ve been here,” Godwin
Maness, the preseason
Conference USA Pitcher of the Year, said that ECU has the kind of pitching
experience to address any type of matchup. Knowing that he is part of such a
stable staff helps fuel Maness’s belief that his team can reach new heights
as he tackles his personal goal of collecting 10 wins.
But as important as the
pitching will be to the Pirates’ postseason hopes, nothing energized them as
much as the decisions Kyle Roller and Devin Harris made to forego the major
leagues and come back to ECU.
Harris was drafted in the
eighth round by the Baltimore Orioles, but as negotiations dragged on he
felt drawn back to play another collegiate season. Roller was taken by the
Oakland Athletics in the 47th round, but his stock rose when he suited up
for the Bourne Braves in the Cape Cod Baseball League this summer.
Roller turned heads in
the prestigious Cape Cod League, hitting .342 with 10 home runs and 33 RBI's
and ending the season as the Cape Cod League MVP. Godwin kept tabs on his
success and wondered if Roller might reconsider the big leagues. But when
they talked, Roller put his mind at ease.
“When Kyle Roller started
throwing up those numbers in the Cape, I was concerned, but Kyle was very
clear. He wanted to come back here and be an instrumental part of helping
our program get to Omaha,” Godwin said.
After an intense summer,
Godwin offered Roller the chance to take some time off during fall workouts.
“Things were going so
good, I hated to stop,” Roller said. “I really didn’t want any time off. I
just wanted to keep going at it.”
NCAA Regional victory over South Carolina
last June, the Pirates are jumping into the preseason with the feeling that
they can beat anybody and reach any height this season, said shortstop
Dustin Harrington. But he believes that because of what he sees before him,
not because of media reports.
“We feel we have a lot of
talent and a lot of heart, and that’s what’s going to get you there,”
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