2006 ECU Baseball Preview
by Josh Spence

East Carolina baseball gets back to the diamond against Maryland on Feb 10th, and if you ask me it can’t come soon enough. The season ended last year leaving much to be desired, and the events that transpired in the off-season only added to the bad taste left in the collective mouths of fans of Pirate baseball. 


In what has become an annual event, the ECU athletic department hosted “Meet the Pirates” last weekend, and it provided the first opportunity for fans to refocus their attention on the field as the team prepares for another season.  Fans in attendance were able to sit down and eat with the players and coaches, get autographs, hear Coach Godwin’s preview of the season, and see something truly special.  In what has now become a Pirate tradition at this event, Coach Godwin named Adam Witter as this year’s player selected to wear the number 23 to honor former Pirate coach Keith LeClair. 


This year’s ceremony however, was extra special.  Coach Godwin brought back the three previous honorees (Ben Sanderson, Jamie Paige, and Brian Cavanaugh) for the presentation.  Last years honoree, Cavanaugh, presented the award to Witter.  The four also introduced a framed jersey with number 23 and a picture of Keith LeClair that will hang in the team’s clubhouse for years to come.  Good way to put a positive feeling back into Pirate Baseball. 


Last year, the Pirates battled through a lot on the way to the teams 7th consecutive NCAA regional appearance.  There was the rash of injuries, especially to Pirate pitchers.  ECU sustained season ending injuries to five pitchers that were expected to see major time on the mound.  The Pirates also were forced to play their first 8 games on the road as Clark-LeClair stadium was being completed, and for the season played more games on the road than they did at home.


Even with adversity staring them in the face, the Pirates finished with another strong season.  East Carolina won 35 games, and competed in the teams 7th consecutive NCAA regional.  After the season, we all learned that the Pirates had bigger issues internally than anything they might have faced on the field.


In the weeks after the season concluded, the Pirates learned that the team’s two top assistants were leaving the program.  Recruiting coordinator, and hitting instructor Allen Osbourne, and longtime pitching coach and former Pirates catcher, Tommy Eason both elected to continue their coaching careers elsewhere. 


Next we heard the news that surprised everyone.  Only a few short months from the start of the season, head coach Randy Mazey was dismissed.  That left newly signed assistants Billy Godwin and Link Jarrett in charge of the program.  Shortly afterwards, Godwin was named head coach after a brief period under interim status. 


2005 was a tumultuous year at best for the Pirates, however things are even better now than they have been.  Despite the late notice, East Carolina was able to bring George Whitfield back to the program.   Whitfield brings a wealth of experience locally at the high school, and legion levels, not to mention the six years he was an assistant at ECU under Keith LeClair.  Add that to the experience of Link Jarrett, the Pirates hitting instructor and recruiting coordinator.  Coach Jarrett has been to Omaha as a coach and player, and has coached and played with some of the best at Florida State.  ECU athletics director Terry Holland, and Associate AD Nick Floyd deserve a tremendous amount of credit for acting with speed and resolve to restore a sense of leadership to Pirate baseball when the team needed it most. 


To top it off, they couldn’t have found a better coach than Billy Godwin.  Coach Godwin has had amazing success at each level he has coached.  From taking N.C. Wesleyan to the Div. III National Championship, to a state championship at the Enfield Academy, to five straight Region X championships, and trips to the NJCAA College World Series with Louisburg College.  Coach Godwin is very capable of winning, and winning immediately at ECU.


With the mix of new and returning players, and the wealth of experience in the coaching staff, it seems there is no way this team cannot succeed.  The Pirates have formulated a plan for success and have put together a group that is capable of taking this program to the next level, Omaha.

Josh Spence