Test time for ECU

Published 2:10 am Friday, February 25, 2011

Team hits the road to face No. 10 Virginia

East Carolina second baseman Tim Younger (5) waits for a pitch during a practice earlier this season. Younger delivered the game-winning hit for ECU during Saturday’s 1-0 win over Youngstown State. Today, the Pirates will begin a three-game series on the road against No. 10 Virginia. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

GREENVILLE — East Carolina could not have asked for a better start to its season as it swept a three-game series with Youngstown State in near flawless fashion. However, duplicating that feat this weekend will be a much bigger challenge as ECU will hit the road to play No. 10 Virginia in its first big test of the year.

Heading into this season the pitching-heavy Pirates (3-0)  knew they would have to rely on their staff to live up to its billing, and so far it has.

East Carolina limited the Penguins to a total of three runs, all of which came in the first game of the series, as the Pirates ended the weekend by piecing together back-to-back shutouts.

Seth Maness (1-0), the reigning Conference USA Pitcher of the Year, was the only starter to allow an earned run in the series, while Zach Woods (1-0) and Michael Wright (1-0) each threw five scoreless innings apiece to pick up wins.

East Carolina’s sixth-year coach Billy Godwin said he was not surprised by the effort turned in by this pitching staff.

“I feel like this staff has the capability of going out there and shutting down people and keeping us in games,” Godwin said. “I don’t ever know what to expect, but it didn’t surprise me.”

Fans can expect to see those three take the hill again this weekend as Godwin said there were no changes to the rotation for the matchup with the Cavaliers.

East Carolina’s batting order is not expected to undergo many major changes this weekend either. Last Sunday there was a minor shakeup to the lineup as Godwin batted traditional leadoff hitter Trent Whitehead in the No. 3 spot while shifting Tim Younger to the top of the order with freshman Drew Reynolds hitting behind him.

“When I changed the lineup the other day I was just trying to get the guys who where seeing the ball the best at the top of the lineup,” Godwin said. “The lineup is still a work in progress and it will continue to be … I don’t try to trick myself with the lineup. I just like putting the guys who are seeing the ball the best and hitting the ball the best at the top so they can get more at-bats.”

Younger went 0-for-4 with a run scored at the leadoff spot, while Whitehead was 1-for-3 with a two-run double from the three spot.

For Godwin, whose team plays a more conservative style of baseball, finding the right table setters is an ongoing and important process.

“I think we are set with Whitehead (at leadoff), but I also like him in the three hole. I wish he could hit one and three for us,” Godwin said. “(Philip) Clark has the ability to be a top of the lineup guy, he’s got speed. (Jack) Reinheimer, Reynolds and Younger are all guys that have the ability to be table setters.”

The Pirates will need all phases of their game to function at a high level this weekend as Virginia is ranked 10th in the country and is coming off of a 2010 season in which it won over 50 games and reached the Super Regional round of the playoffs.

“They are very well coached. They have a really good program that has done some really good things in the last few years,” Godwin said. “I know their coaches well (Virginia is coached by Brian O’Connor), they have great baseball people and it will be a tremendous challenge.”

Today’s game was initially slated to begin at 3 p.m., however, due to the threat of inclement weather the game will now start at 5 p.m.

The Cavaliers are led by staff ace Danny Hultzen (1-0), who was named the ACC Pitcher of the Year last season.

Godwin said that the Pirates and the Cavaliers have a lot in common.

“They seem to be a team very similar to our team,” Godwin said. “They are going to have two or three guys in the middle of their lineup that can hurt you. … They lost a lot of guys from last year’s team and they are going to be counting on some younger guys to step up. I think you will see some similarities in their lineup and ours. They have some athletic guys, guys that can run and bunt. They hit and run and like to create a lot of pressure, I think that’s the style they like to play. All we need to do is defend it … The team that walks way this weekend with the least number of mistakes is the team that is going to win.”