ARTICLE OF THE DAY

Godwin's Gambles
by Brian North
4/20/06

Billy Godwin is in his first year as ECU's head baseball coach, and the jury is still out on whether the 41-year-old will be the man to lead the Pirates' ship deep into the 21st century. But Godwin has done a pretty good job in his first year in division one. The Diamond Bucs have a very good chance to make the postseason party, especially with 11 of their next 14 games at Clark-LeClair Stadium. And Godwin made some bold moves over the past few weeks that almost paid big dividends.

The Rocky Mount native decided to take regular Friday starter T.J. Hose and throw him on five days rest against nationally ranked NC State on April 12th. The move paid off when Hose threw 8 2/3's innings and ECU won 2-1 in 13 innings. The victory was big for a Pirate team trying to make it's 8th straight NCAA Tournament. That was the reward.

The risk came the following weekend when ECU played an Albany team that came to Greenville with a losing record. The Pirates eventually swept the Great Danes without using Hose, but trailed in two of the three games before winning.

Godwin also gambled by holding normal Sunday starter Brody Taylor out of the weekend rotation against Albany and started him against NC State this past Tuesday. It almost worked. The Pirates beat the Great Danes on Sunday, and had the Wolfpack down 3-2 when Taylor left the game. Godwin rolled the dice again and brought in T.J. Hose who had not pitched in seven days to try and save another precious victory.

The ball did not bounce ECU's way and they lost in 10 innings on a couple of wild pitches. Now we have to wait and see if the risky move will pay off this weekend against Marshall. Hose will be expected to start Friday night, and Taylor will be expected back in the weekend rotation Sunday. How they respond after having their schedule's altered over the last 10 days is yet to be determined, and Pirate fans are hoping there is not a let down or over use of the players.

But that is why coaches get paid the big bucks. They have to make tough decisions to try and win as many games as possible. Sometimes they go by "the book" and it doesn't work out, sometimes they go against conventional thinking and it works, and vice versa. The perception is, if the team wins, the coach made the right decision, and if they lose, he made the wrong decision. It's a bottom line business whether that is fair or not. Godwin has also assumed third base coaching duties. The Pirates have had their trouble running the bases this year, and this team does not hit as well as Pirate teams in the past, so base runners are a premium. Godwin's presence at third has promoted a more conservative approach to taking extra bases, but his visibility has certainly added more to his credibility as a leader. Whether it's perception more than reality, it certainly has been noticed.

Now we get to see how Godwin leads the Pirates down the stretch run of the season. His predecessors Gary Overton, Keith LeClair, and Randy Mazey set the bar high, and much will be expected of ECU's Diamond Bucs. Will Godwin's gambles pay off? Lots of fans are hoping the odds are in his favor.
 
Brian North
bnorth@wcti12.com