Godwin, Pirates look to next season
By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
CHAPEL HILL — Moments after the 2007 season came to an end, Billy Godwin turned a hopeful and optimistic eye to 2008.
Godwin saw his East Carolina Pirates get eliminated from the NCAA Chapel Hill Regional with a 9-5 loss to Western Carolina on Sunday. It was the first regional appearance for the second-year head coach.
Godwin, who guided the Pirates to a 40-23 record and a second-place finish in the Conference USA standings, was happy to make the regionals. Still, he’s far from satisfied. He won’t be satisfied until he leads the Pirates to Omaha.
Godwin feels the groundwork is being laid and that his Pirates will be there soon.
Godwin will have to replace seven seniors next year, including a few who played instrumental roles in ECU’s success this year.
He’ll have to fill the shoes of outfielder Ryan Tousley, a .296 hitter who tied for the team-lead with 11 homers while knocking in 51 runs, second best on the team.
Godwin will also have to replace third baseman Jake Dean (one homer, 19 RBIs, .297 average) and catcher David Forbes (four homers, 13 RBIs, .225 average) in the field.
Also missing will be key reliever Jason Neitz, who was 5-2 with a 2.60 ERA, along with fellow pitchers Mike Flye (1-0, 5.16 ERA), Cody Leggett (0-0, 2.45 ERA) and Jeff Ostrander (2-2, 7.79 ERA).
The Pirates could also lose some players to the major league draft, which will be held Thursday and Friday.
However, several key components of this year’s team should be back. That includes sophomore first baseman Stephen Batts, who set a school-record by hitting in 29 consecutive games. Batts finished the year with six home runs, a team-best 56 RBIs and a .323 batting average.
Freshman Kyle Roller, who hit .306, tied for the team-high with 11 homers while knocking in 30 runs.
Junior shortstop Dale Mollenhauer led the team with a .329 batting average.
Also eclipsing the .300 mark were sophomore second baseman/shortstop Ryan Wood (.318, five homers, 23 RBIs), junior outfielder Jamie Ray (.306, two homers, 22 RBIs), who finished the year on a 15-game hitting streak, and sophomore third baseman Drew Schieber (.301, six homers, 22 RBIs).
Meanwhile, Conference USA First Teamer Harrison Eldridge, a solid center fielder, hit .295 with six homers, 28 RBIs and a team-high 15 stolen bases.
Junior pitchers T.J. Hose (6-5, 3.97 ERA), Dustin Sasser (5-4, 3.52 ERA), Shane Mathews (4-4, 14 saves, 4.50 ERA) and sophomore Josh Dowdy (5-2, 3.62 ERA) could all return to the Pirates.
Corey Kemp, who homered and blasted four doubles during the regional tournament, will be a senior next year. The catcher, who had five homers and 41 RBIs while hitting at a .267 clip, said the Pirates had a solid season with this year’s cast.
Godwin will look to add to the core of his team with solid freshmen and transfers. The 2008 signing class includes Washington High School’s Trent Whitehead, an outfielder who has been on the Washington Daily News’ All-Area First Team the last two years.
Kemp said the returning players will get back to work soon.
Three from ECU on all-tournament team
Three players from East Carolina were named to the NCAA Chapel Hill Regional All-Tournament Team.
Among the 11 players selected were first baseman Stephen Batts, catcher Corey Kemp and Jamie Ray.
Western Carolina led the way with five players, as pitcher Drew Saberhagen, second baseman Kenny Smith, third baseman Nick Liles, outfielder Steven Strausbaugh and designated hitter John Ingram were named to the team.
North Carolina, the regional champions, joined ECU with three players on the team. Earning all-tournament honors for the Tar Heels were pitcher Rob Wooten, shortstop Josh Horton and outfielder Reid Fronk.
Horton was named the tournament’s MVP.
2007 NCAA Baseball Tournament
June 1-4 at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill Regional All-Tournament Team
P – Drew Saberhagen, Western Carolina
P – Rob Wooten, North Carolina
1B – Stephen Batts, East Carolina
2B – Kenny Smith, Western Carolina
SS – Josh Horton, North Carolina (MVP)
3B – Nick Liles, Western Carolina
OF – Reid Fronk, North Carolina
OF – Steven Strausbaugh, Western Carolina
OF – Jamie Ray, East Carolina
C – Corey Kemp, East Carolina
DH – John Ingram, Western Carolina