Marilyn Payne

Pirates primed for a postseason first in 2017

Posted February 13
Updated February 14

East Carolina is in a brand new position entering the 2017 baseball season. Despite being the nation's leading program in NCAA Regional appearances, and having hosted postseason weekends before, the Pirates never won a Super Regional game -- until 2016.

Now, the team knows what it wants from this spring and that the advantage must be earned in every single game.

“The motivation comes in that we want to play at home instead of go on the road for a Regional and Super Regional," head coach Cliff Godwin said. "We really want to have a more consistent body of work in the regular season so we can host a Regional at home.”

The yet to be secured home field advantage is about the only thing the No. 6 Pirates don't have going for them to start the year.

ECU returns all but five graduated seniors from last year's roster (38-23-1, 15-8-1 AAC). The experienced group also won the American Athletic Conference Tournament Championship in 2015 (40-22, 15-9 AAC) and has just a few unanswered questions heading into opening weekend.

Junior LHP Evan Kruczynski returns to start Friday games on the mound and Saturday is southpaw Jacob Wolfe's starting job. Fifth-year senior Travis Watkins will catch and the infield is set. Dwanya William-Sutton anchors the outfield, which has two open spots that Godwin is still looking to see if they will be filled by multiple guys or two starters will separate themselves.

The Sunday starting spot is up for grabs -- relievers and freshmen are all in conversation for the role. Righty relievers Joe Ingle, Matt Bridges Sam Lanier could start, making their move from the bullpen staff and Godwin throws out the names of freshmen Tyler Smith, Trey Benton and Jake Agnos in the Sunday starter conversation, too.

"We have a handful of guys to pitch out of bullpen or start, so if they haven’t been used on Sunday, they’ll probably start on Sunday,” Godwin said.

Godwin's goal is to finish the dream coach Keith LeClair had for the program -- go to Omaha. Once it happens, the third-year head coach of the Pirates will retire LeClair's No. 23 jersey, which he's worn instead of his own former number since taking over the program.

“I get chill bumps when you ask me that question because there’s a lot of people that put a lot of hardwork into this baseball program a long time ago. For all those people, all the guys I played with. For coach LeClair, for the guys in the program now – you can’t put it into words. I believe East Carolina deserves to have played in Omaha. 28 Regionals? I think it’s time to get there.”

“Ready, ready to put that thing on the outfield wall, lets have that out there next year.”

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