Pirates prepare for opening dayPublished 7:03pm Wednesday, January 23, 2013
GREENVILLE — Last year the East Carolina baseball team made the postseason for the 12th time in 14 years but went 1-2 in the Chapel Hill Regional and missed out on advancing to the Super Regional for the third straight season.
Pirates head coach Billy Godwin is hoping that streak won’t reach four.
The 2013 Pirates have plenty of potential but must replace five starters from a year ago along with key hurlers Kevin Brandt (7-6, 2.12) and Jharel Cotton (8-3, 3.65), who were two of six ECU players that were drafted from last season’s 36-24-1 team.
As Godwin heads into his 14th year with the Pirates the key to success this season hinges on how well his team can fill the shoes of its departed stars.
“When you lose two-thirds of your weekend rotation it always makes you a little uneasy but we felt we recruited to that,” Godwin said. “I think what makes me uneasy is the unknown. What we can tell as coaches is talent. We can see talent. But when the lights come on and the scoreboard comes on and the fans start showing up what are guys going to do?
“In my experience it has gone both ways. We’ve seen guys that are very talented not get out of the gate like you would want them to. Then, we’ve seen guys like Kevin Brandt who was not very good coming into the fall and preseason (of his freshman year) and then we stick him in against Oklahoma State and he goes 7 1/3 and never looks back.”
The Pirates will have to pick up the slack at the plate too as John Wooten, who started 59 games last season and led the team with a .338 average and nine home runs, is gone along with Corey Thompson, who hit .315 with four home runs and drove in 40 runs to tie Wooten for the team lead.
However, ECU brings back big time hitters like senior Jay Cannon (.308, 2, 23) and juniors Drew Reynolds (.330, 3, 24) and Jack Reinheimer (.294, 2, 22).
With the exception of shortstop Reinheimer, who started 61 games last season, the Pirates are expected to have a healthy dose of competition at just about every other position.
The most open battle heading into the preseason is at catcher where senior Sam King, freshman Travis Watkins and freshman Luke Lowery will compete for the starting nod.
As for the starting rotation, ECU is looking for 6’4”, 183-pound sophomore Jeff Hoffman (3-2, 3.67) to be its No. 1 starter, while Andy Smithmyer, junior Ryan Williams and freshmen Nick Durazo, Hayden White and David Lucroy will vie for starting roles.
Tyler Joyner, who went 6-2 with a 3.01 ERA is expected to miss time due to circumstances that have not yet been disclosed by the school.
As of now, the Pirates will lean on Hoffman and his mid-90s fastball to lead the rotation.
The Pirates will begin the season in less than a month when as they host Virginia at 3 p.m. on Feb. 15.