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GREENVILLE — Cliff Godwin isn’t a weatherman. Nor does he have the ability to wave a magic wand and keep threatening conditions away from the confines of Clark-LeClair Stadium.
But if he did, the East Carolina baseball coach might well have exhausted every arm muscle in his body during last year’s NCAA Division I baseball regional.
Multiple rain delays during the event caused havoc with the entire schedule, including the moving of the regional championship, won by South Carolina, to Monday. ECU’s elimination game against UNC Wilmington was delayed by more five hours, and with the Pirates holding a 3-0 lead in the fourth at the time, starting pitcher Jake Agnos, the hurler of just 47 pitches, was done after 3 2/3 innings.
After ECU added two more runs in the top of the fifth, UNCW posted a fateful nine-run bottom half that led to a 9-7 win and ended the Pirates’ season. Before that, ECU’s winner’s bracket game against the Gamecocks didn’t get underway until 9:05 p.m. the night before, again due to inclement weather.
After days of sunny conditions in eastern North Carolina, the weekend forecast, timely or untimely depending on one’s perspective, calls for scattered thunderstorms Friday and Saturday.
Are the Pirates hunkering down for a “here we go again” kind of weekend? Well, not exactly.
“I can’t control the weather,” Godwin said. “Guess what? If it rains, it will affect this (regional). We don’t play inside. Stop talking to me about the weather. I’m going to show up and be ready to go at 6:00, and if it’s not raining, we’ll play. If it’s raining, we’ll be delayed and then we’ll play when they tell us to play ball. We can’t worry about the weather.”
ECU, the top seed in the regional, opens play against No. 4 Quinnipiac on Friday at 6 p.m. N.C. State, the No. 2 seed and No. 3 Campbell kick off action at noon.
Agnos, the 2019 American Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year as a junior, has emerged as the ace of this ECU staff with a 10-2 record and a 2.00 earned run average. He has a potent strikeout-to-walk ratio of 131 strikeouts and 38 walks, but ECU’s starting pitching plans for the regional have yet to be announced.
“You’ve got to talk to those young guys, because they’ve never experienced anything like that,” Agnos said of the regional setting. “I’m not going to act like it’s something that’s so common for me too. I know I’m going to go out there and it’s going to be a new experience. I only pitched three innings last year on a Sunday with rain and all of that.”
TAKE IT EASY
The 2019 regionals will represent the 30th time an ECU baseball team has made the NCAA field. That’s the most of any team that has not logged at least one appearance in the College World Series.
Godwin dismissed the notion that his Pirates must win the regional to validate the program.
“Don’t put the ‘Omaha or bust’ on this team,” he said. “Because this team is not one of the other 28 teams (actually 29) that have made a regional and not been to the World Series. There’s a lot of people, including myself, that want this program to get to the College World Series. We’re going to get there. I don’t know if it will be this year, but we’re going to get there because we do things the right way. We’ve got the best support staff, the best coaching staff and the best players. I wouldn’t trade our players for anybody in the country.”
First baseman Spencer Brickhouse, a junior and former Wilson American Legion Post 13 player, prefers to focus more on the process.
“I feel like if you try to focus so much on the outcome, it kind of tenses you up,” Brickhouse said. “You don’t play to your full potential. Once again, baseball’s a game. You’ve got to go out, have fun and just try to enjoy the time that we have.”
The Pirates (43-15), as the No. 10 overall seed, are paired with the bracket of No. 7 seed Louisville with regards to super regionals. If the seeds hold, ECU would visit the Cardinals in a best-of-3 series the following weekend for a trip to Omaha.
The Wolfpack (42-17) held out hope to receive one of the 16 host sites, but instead, were shipped to Greenville as Atlantic Coast Conference tournament champion North Carolina claimed the No. 14 seed and a regional at Boshamer Stadium. NCSU lost to Georgia Tech in the ACC semifinals.
“I’m sure they’re not very happy that they’re having to come to Greenville,” Godwin said of the Wolfpack. “But it will be a great environment when they play because they’re an in-state school, and it will be a great environment when we play. Nobody knows who they’re going to play game 2, so we can’t be looking ahead about possible matchups. We’ve got to worry about Friday night at 6 o’clock (against Quinnipiac).”