years now, the motivational call for East Carolina baseball has been
the Pirates haven’t made it, although they’ve come close a couple of
times. And once again, the team will be aiming for that trip to the
magical kingdom in Nebraska.
get a little more inspiration this year as they celebrate the 50th
their only national title. Way
back in 1961, East Carolina’s baseball team, under the tutelage of Jim
Mallory, won the NAIA national championship.
surviving members of that team have been invited to attend the
semi-centennial celebration of their milestone achievement during
Lettermen’s Weekend when the Pirates host Southern Miss.
[Article continues below picture)
Baseball Bucs of 1961
|East Carolina College's 1961
NAIA national championship team. Jim Mallory, coach of the
team, is back row, middle. (Joyner Library archive image)
Bill Godwin has been working on bringing those members back to campus
where things have definitely changed since they wore the ECC uniform.
But the coach doesn’t think that will be a key motivational factor for
the 2011 squad.
goal has always been to go to Omaha,” Godwin said in the final days
before getting the 2011 season underway with a three-game stand against
Youngstown State on Friday. “You’ve got to be good enough to get in and
hopefully host (a regional/super regional) and be fortunate enough to
play well at the right time — peak at the right time.”
usual, Rice is the favorite to win the Conference USA title, but Godwin
believes his team has a good chance to take the crown, just as it did
two years ago.
has certainly, well, been Rice every year,” Godwin said. “We won two
years ago, but you have to do it on a consistent basis like they’ve been
doing to be the pick.”
thing all of the NCAA teams are going to have to do this year is learn
to play with new bats.
is a difference,” the coach said of the bats that will replace the
composite bats used in the last several years. “The ball comes off the
bat at a different speed and it doesn’t travel as far.
it, personally. It brings the game back to a pure version of baseball.
When you have a three-run lead, you have a three-run lead. You’re going
to have to hit and earn it. I don’t think we’ll get beat by a 155-pound
second baseman in the ninth inning who gets out on his front foot and
hits it out.”
of this, the Pirates have put a lot of emphasis on moving the runners
using the bunt or hitting behind the runners.
added that the team has had a lot of situational hitting and that the
fans are going to see that magnified this season.
not striking out any more (than a year ago) and I don’t think that will
change,” Godwin said. “In practice, our batting average is down about 20
points, but it’s hard to tell since that’s been in intra-squad play
(against Pirate pitching).
noted that he’s excited about the mound staff.
toward thinking the pitchers are good and that our hitters are good,
too,” he said.
power hitting of the past may become only a memory. There’ll still be
homers, but not at the pace seen in recent years.
talked with several coaches and there seems to be little bit of a
consensus that the new home run level will be around 50 instead of 100
(for a team’s season),” said Godwin.
coach believes that five or six runs for his club will give the Pirates
a chance to win 75 to 80 percent of their games.
inning, we’re going to try and get to that number,” he said. “We’re not
going to sit back and try to get that homer. We’ll try to move the
runners but we don’t want to happy just to move them over on a weak
grounder but to drive the ball and bring them in.”
on the bases will also be emphasized.
couple of years ago, we stole 101 bases,” Godwin said, “and our speed is
as good as that team. But it comes down to how well the other team holds
runners, how quickly their pitchers are to get the ball to the plate and
how good the catcher is. More emphasis is going to be controlling the
said that sending a runner comes down to a math equation.
catchers throw now in about 2.0 (seconds),” he said. “I know what every
guy can do to steal second. What I have to do is time the pitcher and
see how quickly the catcher throws the ball to second between innings.
have a guy who is 7.0, that comes down to about 3.5 between bases. If a
pitcher is 1.3 and the catcher is 2.0 and accurately getting the ball to
second, that’s about 3.3 and is usually not a good situation. That’s
where hitting behind the runner takes over.”
year, the Pirates suffered through a horrible 108 errors, most of them
in the middle infield. So an emphasis in recruiting was in that area.
out and brought in four quality middle infielders,” Godwin said. “Two
freshmen and two junior college. And they’re still battling it out.”
Drew Reynolds has a shot at playing either shortstop or third base. The
other frosh, Jack Reinheimer, has to be more consistent.
make some unbelievable plays,” Godwin said, “but his consistence level
Younger, one of the junior college transfers (St. Petersburg College),
has been the most consistent while Michael Ussery (Ohlone Junior
College) could be the second baseman, again appearing consistent at that
plus is the return of John Wooten (So., .311, 9 HR, 40 RBI) at first
base and Corey Thompson (Jr., .377, 8 HR, 54 RBI) at third base,
protecting the corners. Wooten, however, might end up in left field,
depending on how some of the other newcomers do.
John and Corey will be in our lineup,” Godwin said. “But we have to
figure out where they’ll best fit into our lineup.”
coach added that a number of players are likely to see both starting and
relief work in the early season games.
two corner infielders, the pitching corps will be led by two stalwarts.
Seth Maness (Sr., RH, 10-3, 4.17 ERA) and Zach Woods (Sr., RH, 8-4, 4.50
ERA) return as starters for the Pirates. But they’re also being pressed.
are about six pitchers battling for the four or five starting
positions,” Godwin said. “Maness and Woods will be out there on Friday
and Saturday, but we still don’t know who’ll be there Sunday.”
the group who have a shot at it will be Brad Mincey (Sr., RH, 3-1,
5.83), Kevin Brandt (Jr., LH, 3-7, 5.21), Shawn Armstrong (So., RH, 0-2,
4.30), and Mike Wright (Jr., RH, 2-2, 6.94).
latter two made big jumps in the fall and in preseason, Godwin said,
“but they still have to go out there when the lights and the scoreboard
go on and show what they’ve shown in preseason.”
Simmons (Sr., RH, 2-5, 4.39, 9 saves) is likely to be the closer once
again, but Jake Harris (So., LH, 2-0, 4.84) and sidearmer Drew Reynolds
(Fr., LH) are also pushing for the job.
Godwin is looking for a strong bullpen from these hurlers and others.
Wright (Jr., .265, 14 HR, 47 RBI) is the leader for the catching
position, having started 40 games last season.
poised to be a guy who can play 80 percent of our games,” Godwin said.
coach has also been impressed by some newcomers.
Lovick (Fr.), I like a lot," said Godwin. "He’s a converted catcher we
saw catch (in high school). Will Connerley (Fr.) is another good kid.
With the speed of the game, the most demanding position is behind the
said that the outfield probably has the most depth since he’s been with
starts with Trent Whitehead (Sr., .331, 4 HR, 31 RBI), who is as good as
any centerfielder I’ve had,” the coach said. “Phil Clark (So., .290, 2
HR, 40 RBI) and Chris Gosik (So., .246, 2 HR, 12 HR) are close. Both
played a lot as freshmen and did well.”
exciting freshman, according to Godwin, is Ben Fultz.
see him late in the games," he said. "Jon Holt is another freshman who
is getting better and Jake Davis (So., .333) has shown a lot of promise
out the offense will be the designated hitter position and the word is
already out to watch for freshman Chase McDonald.
a chance to play some at first base, too,” Godwin said. “He has a lot of
athleticism for a guy weighing 260 pounds. People are comparing him to
(former Pirate) Kyle Roller, but Kyle really didn’t start coming around
until the middle of his second year. Chase could get there earlier.”
Homan (Sr., .313, 1 HR, 13 RBI) could also take over the DH spot if
McDonald needs more seasoning. Homan
is wearing the No. 23 Keith LeClair jersey
for the second straight year, a tribute to his leadership.
all boil down to how quickly the newcomers respond to the pressures of
Division I college baseball and how the Pirates react to the new bats.
can pound the zones, can run and have athleticism,” Godwin said, “we
have a chance.”