Time to find another gearPublished 8:26pm Thursday, March 24, 2011
GREENVILLE — After winning five in a row, and 10 of their last 11 games, the Pirates head into their Conference USA opener today at home against Memphis with plenty of momentum.
East Carolina (16-4) is coming off of a three-game sweep of Rutgers last weekend and after having no games during the week, the Pirates will be fully rested when they take on the Tigers (11-8).
Pirates coach Billy Godwin said the key to his team’s success lies in its belief in itself.
“They are playing with confidence and that’s the biggest thing,” Godwin said. “We’ve got a little bit of momentum, and I have always said momentum is nothing but attitude.”
Though his team is playing well right now, Godwin is not content and challenged his team to step up its play even further.
“I have challenged them right now. We don’t need to coast, we need to step on the accelerator a little bit,” Godwin said. “Human nature is complacency, but I think it’s real important that we step on the accelerator and play at an even higher level.”
It would be hard for the East Carolina pitching staff to raise its game to another level considering it is already statistically the best unit in the nation.
The Pirates enter this series with a mind-blowing 1.67 ERA, which is tops in the country, along with its five shutouts, which is tied for first.
Godwin credited first-year pitching coach Dan Roszel and his practices for helping the Pirates’ pitchers excel.
“Coach Roszel does a good job. One of the things he and I talk about is that we want the pitcher’s easiest day on his work schedule to be the day he pitches,” Godwin said. “That should be his easiest day.”
The Pirates will use the same rotation as last weekend as Seth Maness (3-1, 1.98) will start the first game of the series and will be followed up by Michael Wright (4-0, 1.80).
After dominating Rutgers in his second start of the year, Kevin Brandt (2-0, .72) will once again pitch on Sunday.
Brandt was named the Conference USA pitcher of the week after he silenced Rutgers for seven innings and struck out a career-high 12 batters.
Godwin said he was not surprised at the performance of Brandt.
“I wasn’t shocked by what he did. I think it speaks volumes about our staff,” Godwin said. “He was able to come right in there and go out and do the job.”
Another person getting the job done has been catcher Zach Wright. The junior backstop has started all 20 games for ECU and is hitting .296 while leading the team in RBIs (15) and home runs (6).
The key for Wright has been a more disciplined approach at the plate.
“I think Zach has quit chasing; he is swinging at better pitches,” Godwin said. “He is being a bit more patient. I talk about hitting as being a patient aggressiveness and I think that’s what you’re seeing. He is seeing the ball well … and he is getting better pitches to hit because he is more patient.
“When you’re a hitter and you’re swinging at bad pitches the pitcher will just keep extending (the strike zone). So I think what he has done is just laid off a little and now they are forced to come back over the plate and I think it’s a paid off for him.”
The Tigers come to Greenville swinging a hot bat as well. Memphis boasts four players who are hitting over .300 and have potent lineup.
Chad Zurcher has started 18 games this season and is leading the team with a .471 batting average. Following him is Philip Chapman who is hitting .358, while Drew Martinez (.345) and T.J. Rich (.318) are also over .300.
Godwin said in order to keep the Tigers’ lineup under control his pitchers must not allow their No. 1 and No. 2 hitters to get on board.
“I think they got two of the best table setters in the league in Martinez and Zurcher,” Godwin said. “They have a very experienced lineup. I have seen those names a lot of years. I think the whole key to them is trying to control Martinez and Zurcher.”