Brown to anchor ECU infield

Published 8:14 pm Wednesday, February 14, 2018

GREENVILLE — Turner Brown doesn’t have the most powerful bat. His voice in the locker room isn’t always the loudest. But the junior shortstop has been an ironman for East Carolina, and he’s one of the team’s go-to leaders this season.

Brown has started all but nine of the 122 games ECU has played since he arrived in the 2016 season. He boasted a .281 batting average as a freshman and batted .263 last year. In the field, he took no time at all to cement his spot in an infield that consisted largely of upperclassmen the last two years.

“He’s the guy I look to first and foremost, position-player wise,” coach Cliff Godwin said during last week’s media day. “He’s got a ton more confidence. He’s carried himself like a junior should and a guy that’s played shortstop everyday as a freshman.”

That’s the kind of player the Pirates need in the infield this season. ECU graduated second baseman Charlie Yorgen and third baseman Eric Tyler. Bryce Harman, who split time at first base with sophomore Spencer Brickhouse, also graduated.

It was a bit eye opening to enter the locker room and not see the likes of Yorgen, Tyler and the seven other seniors that have departed.

“They’ve been here and helped guide me along the way ever since day one,” Brown said. “I just wanted to take it upon myself to build leaders around our whole team. It was different.”

Godwin said that junior Brady Lloyd and sophomore Nick Barber will man second base opposite of Brown at shortstop. Junior Connor Litton, who transferred from Cowley County Junior College, is tabbed for the opening at third base. Brickhouse will share time at first with freshman Alec Burleson.

“We have a really good connection. Us three have built a really good relationship,” Brown said of the new-look infield with Lloyd and Barber. “You can put anyone out there and we’re going to all mesh together. We’ve worked really hard to shore it up and communicate.”

Much of Brown’s focus has been keeping himself and his teammates accountable. Individually, he said strength was his primary focus in the offseason.

“I just wanted to increase strength because I’m not the biggest man in the world,” he said. “I wanted to get stronger and make sure I stay consistent on defense and make sure I have good at bats.”

Offensively, Brown has a hard-nosed approach when he takes the plate. He takes pride in it less because of what it can translate to on his stat line and more because of the way it helps his fellow Pirates.

“I just try to have good at bats and grind out pitches and find the barrel as much as possible,” he said. “Coach Godwin gives us a good approach. … It helps the team out because if I can see more pitches, then the guys on deck can see everything he’s throwing. It’s going to help us out in the long run.”

Brown also brings versatility to the lineup. He spent some time as a freshman batting in the cleanup spot. He’s been in the bottom third. In fact, he said the No. 3 spot was the only one he hasn’t been slotted into for a game.

Godwin opted not to name any captains on this year’s team. While Brown’s leadership on and off the field will be key, Godwin and the players all echoed a similar motto: they want 35 leaders on this team.

ECU begins the season Friday when it hosts Western Carolina. First pitch for opening day at Clark-LeClair Stadium is slated for 4 p.m.