ECU baseball still confident despite opening weekend sweep

The Pirates return to action at Campbell on Wednesday after losing three straight at Ole Miss by a total of four runs

Madeline Gray—North State Journal
ECU Head Coach Cliff Godwin claps as players run to home base after a home run against NC State on Tuesday

The East Carolina baseball team was a talented, confident group when it left for its season-opening series at Ole Miss last weekend.It returned home the same way, even after a losing all three games.”We’re not a different team,” coach Cliff Godwin said. “We’re (still) running out the same guys as we ran out on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Some guys need to get better, absolutely, but it’s not much. If everybody gets one percent better, we’re probably 3-0.”The Pirates came into the season ranked No. 6 nationally by Baseball America and were looking to make an another early statement similar to the one they made a year ago by winning two of three at Virginia.Instead, they head into their midweek game at Campbell on Wednesday saddled with an 0-3 record.The most disappointing aspect of the lost weekend is that ECU held the lead in each game before allowing the eighth-ranked Rebels to rally.It’s not the way Godwin and his players wanted to start, especially with the high expectations they’re carrying. But losing three close games on the road to a fellow top-10 team in the first week of a three-month, 56-game season is hardly the end of the world, either.”We talk about how there are no winners and losers, there’s winners and learners,” senior second baseman Charlie Yorgen said. “So we just have to learn from these experiences and move forward.”It’s not as if the Pirates played poorly. Their three losses came by a total of four runs.They dropped a 5-4 decision with ace Evan Kruczynski on the mound on Friday, then lost 3-2 after giving up the tying and go-ahead runs in the bottom of the seventh before squandering a four-run lead in an 8-6 setback in the series finale on Sunday.”You’re talking about five pitches that could have gone either way,” Godwin said. “I’m proud of the way our guys competed. They played hard.”That competitiveness was best displayed on the very first at bat of the season, an epic 11-pitch battle that saw preseason All-American Dwanya Williams-Sutton foul off pitch after pitch after pitch before driving a home run over the left field wall.Despite the losses, the preseason American Athletic Conference favorites came out of the weekend with their confidence intact.One reason was the play of junior outfielder Luke Bolka. A role player who split time between the lineup and the bullpen during his first two seasons, Bolka went 4 for 8 with a homer, two RBI and three walks in the opening series.The Pirates also got a glimpse of both their depth and their highly regarded freshman class because of injuries to starters Bryce Harman and Turner Brown.With first baseman Harman sidelined because of a wrist injury, rookie Spencer Brickhouse stepped in and performed admirably — hitting a homer in his first college game while going 4 for 12 at the plate and handling all 18 defensive chances without an error. Fellow freshman Nick Barber reached base twice and drove in a run with a squeeze bunt after being pressed into service at shortstop after Brown injured his finger on a bunt attempt of his own on Saturday.After Wednesday’s game in Buies Creek, ECU will have a chance to get healthy again — both in the lineup in the win-loss column — with the next seven games at home.”We just have go to do a little bit better,” Godwin said. “When you play on the road you have to win the game. You just can’t be in it and expect for a break to go your way. They just won more pitches than we did and that’s why they’re 3-0 and we’re 0-3.”