‘Diamond Bucs’ ready to go in 2013

Two-way player Drew Reynolds (7) should be key to ECU’s success. -Drew Carter | The East Carolinian

The ECU baseball team begins its season on Feb. 15th as it host the Virginia Cavaliers for a three-game series. ECU will also host the 10th Annual Keith LeClair Classic from February 21st-23rd.

The Pirates are coming off their 12th regional appearance in 14 seasons after finishing with a 36-24-1 record. The team has high expectations for this season as they return an experienced squad, a highly touted recruiting classes.

The Pirates did take a big hit this week however, as senior pitcher Tyler Joyner was released from the team.

“We were made aware of an off-the-field incident involving Tyler last week,” said Head Coach Billy Godwin. “I have made a determination that Tyler was in violation of our team philosophy and he has been dismissed from the team. As a program, we hold our student-athletes to a high standard and being held accountable for their actions.”

Joyner pitched in over 92 innings last year, posting a 3.01 ERA and was 18th nationally in strikeout to walk ratio, fanning 68 batters while only walking 12 (5.67).

The team will look past this setback with help from a strong supporting class of new players. The Pirates recruiting class was ranked 33rd nationally, with a mix of freshmen and junior college transfers. These new players are expected to contribute immediately.

“Our three junior college guys look poised to play a significant role for us,” said Godwin.

In addition to the junior college transfers, freshman standout Garrett Brooks is expected to make large contributions.

“We’re expecting some freshmen to come in and make some key contributions to our club,” said Godwin. “You know, guys like Garrett Brooks.”

With a highly ranked recruiting class and a solid returning core of veterans, there is a lot of excitement and high expectations for the upcoming season.

“I’m really excited,” said junior Drew Reynolds. “This team has a lot of potential.”

The team has their sights set on the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. Getting there would be tough, but Coach Godwin thinks this team is up to the task.

“We want to make our 27th regional appearance, host it, host super-regionals, and play in Omaha,” said Godwin.

The Pirates have a schedule similar to that for one of the top teams in the NCAA. The schedule has 35 home games with some stiff non-conference opponents in Virginia, St. John’s and N.C. State.

“We’re not afraid to play anyone anywhere,” said Godwin of the tough schedule. “We like to play the best schedule we possibly can.”

The Pirates will be led by Friday night starting pitcher, sophomore Jeff Hoffman.

“I’m really excited that we have a potential legitimate Friday night guy in Jeff Hoffman,” said Godwin. “He is what you dream about, he’s got the stuff. I mean he is going to be in the mid-90s, and he has got ability to go out and shut teams down.”

The season has already begun for the players, as official practices began on Jan. 25th and will continue until the season opening series against Virginia.

The team also held fall practice including the annual Purple Gold World Series, which was the first opportunity to see the returning players and the 13 new members (10 freshmen, three junior transfers) play together.

“I felt there was more electricity and more energy in the games than any year I’ve been here,” said Godwin.

The line up will have a tough time improving on last season as the team posted a .295 batting average. Pitching will also be hard to find areas to improve, as ECU had a team ERA of 3.35 during the 2012 season. ECU outscored their opponents 342-265 last season.

One place where there will be a need for improvement is in the team’s fielding. Eleven ECU players made a total of 69 fielding errors last year.

The team will also be looking to improve on their road play as well as their play in conference games. The Pirates were 8-14 on the road and 13-10-1 in conference games.

One of the reasons for ECU performing so well at home could be due to the Pirate faithful coming out in hordes to cheer on their team. The attendance averaged 2,685 for home games last season, which is one of the highest in the nation.

 

This writer can be contacted at sports@theeastcarolinian.com.

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