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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, February 19, 2013

By Brian Bailey

Brian Bailey

Bullpen under scrutiny as Pirates regroup

Billy Godwin
(ECU Media Relations photo)


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By Brian Bailey
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Opening weekend was one to forget for East Carolina’s baseball program.

Nationally-ranked Virginia came to town and took both games in the snow-shortened series, winning 14-4 and 13-9. Game three of the series was cancelled because of the bad weather and will not be rescheduled.

That second final looked a lot better because the Pirates plated five runs in the bottom of the ninth.

Actually, game two was much more what Pirate fans expect this season. The Pirates scratched and clawed their way to a 4-0 lead. Starting pitcher Ryan Williams certainly did his job and, with Jeff Hoffman, the Pirates may have a great one-two punch on weekends.

Andy Smithmyer missed his start because of the weather.

Hoffman certainly didn’t have his best stuff in Friday’s loss, but he still kept the Pirates close. Pirate pitchers walked seven and hit five Cavaliers in the opener.

Virginia’s Kenny Towns took care of the rest in that first game. Towns, who didn’t hit a home run in 2012, opened 2013 with a first inning grand slam. He belted another one in the seventh to turn opening day into an opening blowout.

“It’s disappointing whether you lose 3-2 or 14-4,” said Pirate Coach Billy Godwin to reporters afterwards. “One of the keys to the game is the freebie, and we had 12 (the seven walks and five hit batsmen). You do that against a good offensive club like Virginia, it bodes for a lot of runs being put on the board.”

On to game two, where Williams solidified his role as a weekend starter, going six innings, allowing four runs (3 earned) on six hits, three walks and two strikeouts.

“I was able to throw strikes early and get ahead,” said Williams after taking the no decision. “That’s our philosophy, to pitch ahead. You always want to get the win. I know our team is always going to fight.”

For the second straight game, the bullpen didn’t help the cause at all. After Williams, the rest of the staff gave up nine runs on nine hits with seven walks and just one strikeout. Five of those nine runs were earned.

“The big difference was pitching,” said Coach Godwin after the game two loss.

“(Starter) Ryan Williams made it look easy. He was down in the zone. He attacked the zone. He threw multiple pitches for strikes.

"Then we go to our pen and we just haven’t found that. It’s frustrating for me. I really like a lot of things about our club. But out of the bullpen today we were not very good at all.”

After ECU built a 4-0 lead, Virginia scored 13 straight runs before the Pirates finally got back on the board with that five-spot in the ninth when the game was all but over.

Godwin has a very short time to fix things, with Campbell coming to town Tuesday and then the start of the annual Keith LeClair Classic on Thursday night.

“We just aren’t very good at one phase of the game,” said Godwin. “We have to really attack that (bullpen) and find guys who can come in there and get it done.”

Godwin hasn’t ruled out making changes in his basic lineup.

“I think it’s still a work in progress,” Godwin said. “Overall I’ve been pleased with what we have done on defense and some of our approaches at the plate.”

The Pirates will have several chances to right the ship this week. Campbell comes to town on Tuesday, and then the Pirates open the LeClair Classic by hosting Illinois from the Big Ten.

We only have two games to judge, but so far the good and the bad are well defined.

Hopefully, the bullpen woes will work themselves out. The Pirates got solid starting pitching this weekend, but the relievers struggled.

East Carolina really doesn't have the type of lineup that can just outscore teams.

Pitching and defense will be key, and the Pirate arms have to get better quickly.


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02/19/2013 04:13 AM


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