ECU to take on James Madison in season opener

Published 11:19 am Thursday, February 13, 2014




By Michael Prunka

Sports Intern


East Carolina is preparing to host James Madison in the college baseball season opener. Both ECU and JMU are coming off relatively disappointing seasons and each squad is looking to start off 2014 on the right foot.

The Pirates, who finished 31-26 (14-10 Conference-USA) last season, are set on making an impact in the NCAA tournament this time around. They made an impressive turnaround last season, but didn’t deliver in the C-USA tournament. ECU fell to Houston and Tulane before rebounding against Southern Miss in the round robin stage, which was not enough to advance.

“There’s the Garrett Brooks’ and the Dylan Browns,” said pitcher Jeff Hoffman. “I want to be that guy this year. That wasn’t the case last year. It was more just getting the job done. This year we have goals set for each other and we hold each other accountable. We know we can trust each other and I think that’s going to take us a long way.”

The current plan for the pitching rotation is to have Hoffman pitch Fridays, David Lucroy on Saturdays and Tyler Bolton to close out the weekend on Sundays. That leaves talented pitchers like former starter Ryan Williams as viable late-game relief options.

“It takes that stress off your back knowing that I don’t have to go into the eighth or ninth inning every game,” said Hoffman about the confidence the bullpen gives a starting pitcher. “I can get it to the seventh and say, ‘Hey, guys, take it from here.’ It’s going to take a lot of stress off my arm going into conference tournaments and going into the postseason, so that will be huge for us.”

With a lot of newcomers mixed into a lineup of talented hitters returning for the Dukes, Hoffman and the Pirate pitching staff could be faced with a few road bumps opening weekend.

Ty McFarland and Chad Carroll notched 74 and 75 hits, respectively, for JMU last year. The two also combined for seven homeruns and 97 RBI. Throw in Conner Brown, who led the Dukes with nine homeruns, and ECU’s pitchers will have their work cut out for them on Friday.

Offensively, ECU’s newest weapon is Ian Townsend. The St. John’s River Community College transfer is known for both his hitting and base running abilities. Townsend hit his first homerun in an ECU uniform back on Oct. 12 during a 3-1 win over the Czech Republic national team in an exhibition game.

“Ian’s new to our program,” said coach Billy Godwin. “I want him to come in and hit in the four, five or six hole for us and be as good a hitter as he can be in that position. As far as leadership, I think a guy like that leads by example.”

Friday’s game is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday’s games will start at 2 p.m. and 1 p.m., respectively.

The action can be followed on the Pirates IMG Sports Network. Log on to for the full game story.