East Carolina slugger Spencer Brickhouse (Aaron Fitt)


Fall Report: East Carolina

Fall Report

Last year was supposed to be The Year for East Carolina. The Pirates brought back a boatload of seasoned seniors from a team that fell one win shy of Omaha in 2016. They entered 2017 ranked in D1Baseball’s preseason Top 25, and they looked poised to finally break through to the College World Series for the first time in program history.

But that’s not how it played out. ECU had a roller coaster first half, then took a nose dive in late March/early April, losing 10 of 11 games en route to a shocking last-place finish in the American Athletic Conference. Injuries to key players like outfielder Dwanya Williams-Sutton and ace Evan Kruczynski certainly played into the disappointing season, and so did the dismissal of closer Joe Ingel — but there was more to it than that. At the very end, ECU nearly salvaged a postseason berth, winning its first three games in the AAC tournament to reach the title game, then falling to Houston. That ended the season — and prompted some self-reflection in Greenville.

“I’ve told our team this several times, but the best thing that could have happened to East Carolina baseball last year was losing that conference tournament championship game last year,” ECU coach Cliff Godwin said. “Because it would have kept everything status quo. (Falling short of a regional) made me better, it made our coaches and players better, it made them hungry. We needed last year to happen for us to have the opportunity to play at the highest level, and we’re looking forward to that.

“The ball starts and stops with me, and we’ve really had to look ourselves in the mirror from a leadership perspective. So it was a combination of things, it was injuries, but that wasn’t the end-all, be-all — we should’ve still went to a regional. And some leadership things we needed to shore up.”

Godwin said the Pirates came back to campus with an edge about them this fall, and they competed hard, performed well and showed plenty of improvement. Godwin anticipates external expectations to be lower for ECU heading into 2018, and that’s just fine with him. The Pirates might just be the perfect example of a “post-hype sleeper.”

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