Bonesville: The Authoritative Independent Voice of East Carolina
Daily News & Features from East Carolina, Conference USA and Beyond

Mobile Alpha Roundup Daily Beat Recruiting The Seasons Multimedia Historical Data Pirate Time Machine SportByte™ Weather



Put your ad message in front of 1,000's and 1,000's of Pirate fans. Call 252.355.8822 for flexible options & rates.




The Bradsher Beat
Friday, February 2, 2007

By Bethany Bradsher

No limit to fine-tuning for Baseball Bucs

By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.

The cold was bracing and Wednesday’s practice was stretching out long for the East Carolina baseball team when a batter laid down a solid bunt and claimed first base in some scrimmage innings.

In the dugout, few of the Diamond Pirates took note of the bunt. Head coach Billy Godwin turned from his place on the third-base line and addressed the group behind him.

“For those of you who are new, we treat a good bunt the same way we treat a home run,” he told them. “Don’t just sit in the dugout. That’s the way we play.”

The players hopped up to greet the batter with a fist bump, and thus ended another of Godwin’s object lessons in his main theme of the preseason: To succeed, a team must pursue excellence in the small things.

Even as he stresses the big plays and the primary game strategy, Godwin has his team majoring in the details. He has become convinced that every top national team — all perennial College World Series competitors — exhibits that kind of attention to the more marginalized parts of the game.

“We talk about doing the little things better than anyone else in the country,” Godwin said. “Getting a guy over, or getting a bunt down, or being a good teammate. We have to do all the little things better than anybody.”

As any coach or serious fan knows, those little things often add up to huge importance when a game is on the line. And so one of the Pirates’ most trusted pitchers has been entrusted with maybe the biggest “small thing” there is — the final innings of a close game. Finding the right closer was at the top of the coaching staff’s to-do list after last season, when the Pirates lost nine games in the ninth inning.

To find the right person, Godwin said, he considered a series of factors, and spent time talking over the matter with players and his fellow coaches. The consensus choice, with the right combination of toughness and skill, was junior Shane Mathews.

“What you would like to have, first of all, is a guy that’s got some stuff, the pitches,” Godwin said. “He’s shown he can win at this level, he’s got the stuff to go in and win. But I think the thing is his mentality. He’s been battle tested; he’s been in some pretty tight situations.

"I think the other thing is, his ability to bounce back, his durability.”

Since Mathews got the nod as the closer, he has spent some time studying the great closers of the game and the attitude that should govern those pitchers. What he’s discovered is that keeping a cool head is as crucial as throwing the right pitches.

“You’ve got to stay calm, and you’ve got to stay focused on what you’re doing out there, because to come into that role is a high-pressured situation,” he said. “You’ve just got to be focused and not let the crowd or the batters or the situation on the field dictate how you pitch.”

A Conover native, Mathews was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team during his first season and was forced to take a medical redshirt during his second, when he required Tommy John surgery. Last year he compiled a 4.73 ERA and won five games as a starter.

During summer ball in the Cape Cod League, he alternated between the starting lineup and the bullpen, and he became comfortable in the pen. So when Godwin approached him in November about closing, he embraced the challenge.

“Every game, you’ve got to come to the park ready to pitch,” he said.

Send an e-mail message to Bethany Bradsher.

Click here to dig into Bethany Bradsher's Bonesville archives.

02/23/2007 01:14:35 AM

©2001-2002-2003-2004-2005-2006-2007-2008-2009-2010-2011-2012-2013 All rights reserved.
Articles, logos, graphics, photos, audio files, video files and other content originated on this site are the proprietary property of
None of the articles, logos, graphics, photos, audio files, video files or other content originated on this site may be reproduced without written permission.
This site is not affiliated with East Carolina University. View's Privacy Policy. Advertising contact: 252-349-3280; Editorial contact:; 252-444-1905.