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The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, March 15, 2006

By Bethany Bradsher

Bucs stick to the plan after bumpy West Coast trek

©2006 Bonesville.net

Billy Godwin didn’t make the connection between East Carolina's Spring Break and the baseball team’s California road trip before the season started.

But now that the Pirates have returned with jet lag and a need to refocus and refresh, Godwin sees the two pieces of the schedule fitting like a hand in a glove.

“I didn’t realize it when we first scheduled the trip, but it was good,” he said. “I think they were able to get back yesterday and get some rest, and we got back out here this morning to kind of go after business.”

On Tuesday, the Diamond Bucs were scheduled to begin practice at 9 a.m., and then they were interrupted by a rain delay. They finished the workout at 3 p.m., ending almost a full day of practice that never would have been possible on a regular school day.

“We’re taking our time a little bit more,” said senior first baseman Adam Witter. “It doesn’t need to be crammed into two and a half hours. We can elaborate on the areas we need extra work on.”

Certainly getting swept by Cal State-Fullerton tarnished the shine of the early part of the season, which saw the Pirates going 12-3 in a stretch of 15 home games before the West Coast trip. But even in his first season at the ECU helm, Godwin is able to take such a valley in stride, and he encouraged the players at the opening of Tuesday’s practice.

“I basically said that I’m not pushing any panic buttons, that we’ve got to stay the task,” he said. “It’s a long season, it’s a marathon, and we’ve got to come back out and have a good approach in practice and go back to the things that have been successful up until this past weekend.”

In fact, even with the extra blemishes the Fullerton defeats put on their record, the players hope to look back on the trip as a crucial step in their development as a national-caliber team. The younger players, especially, have already had the equivalent of five road trips with a cross-country trek against the 2004 national champions.

“It definitely turned some of our younger guys into veterans,” Witter said.

In just two weeks the Pirates will take their second major road trip — this time to the home stadium of 2003 national champion Rice University. It’s a stretch of the schedule that can only strengthen the team that is vying for its eighth straight trip to the NCAA regionals, Godwin said.

“It’s awesome,” Godwin said. “For us to be able to go out there and play a caliber team like Fullerton and then go to Rice, it’s a similar type test. It’s an awesome experience for our players.”

With Conference USA play originating with that Rice series, the Pirates hope that the Houston trip will stand out as a peak in this season and a spark for the team as they look toward their perennial goal in Nebraska.

“Hopefully, we’ll step up to our game and know what it takes to get to Omaha,” said senior pitcher Brody Taylor.

Taylor, who missed all of last season due to an arm injury, is slated as the starting pitcher for the Pirates’ next challenge — tonight’s away game against UNC-Wilmington. The Pirates defeated the Seahawks 11-2 on February 25 and will host them again next Wednesday. The rivalry with UNCW never lacks intensity, but Taylor is just thankful for a chance to get out there and try for his third win of the season, he said.

“I’m just happy to be back out on the mound and to be able to pitch again,” he said.

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02/23/2007 01:12:53 AM

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