Well game week is officially here!!!
Around the country nearly all 292 Division I teams will kick off the 2011 season searching for the feeling that South Carolina had at the end of last year when they topped UCLA for the College World Series (CWS) title in Omaha, Neb. at Rosenblatt Stadium.
But before we dive head first into how the Pirates match up against the Youngstown State Penguins, late last week a pair of online publications released their predictions on how ECU will fare in Conference USA play this year, while also releasing their preseason all-conference squads.
A consistent theme that keeps popping up when talking about the Pirates and Conference USA as a whole is that the 2010 season was an aberration of sorts. Last year broke the leagues five-year streak of having at least one team in the College World Series when both Southern Miss and Rice failed to make out of the regional rounds.
Baseball America and Perfect Game USA both predicted that Pirates will be back in regional play in 2011 behind a strong pitching staff that returns 13 pitchers including its entire weekend rotation. While the rotation has not been set as of yet, pitching coach Dan Roszel has indicated the 2010 C-USA Pitcher-of-the-Year Seth Maness and 2010 C-USA Newcomer-of-the-Year Zach Woods will be throwing on the weekends. Junior Kevin Brandt and redshirt sophomore Shawn Armstrong will battle for the last weekend spot, while hurlers Austin Chrismon, Joseph Hughes, Brad Mincey and Michael Wright will see spot action during the midweek games.
While the Pirates look to fill the void from the loss of power hitters Kyle Roller and Devin Harris, Coach Billy Godwin will rely on the veteran leadership in the field and at the plate from All C-USA performers Trent Whitehead and Corey Thompson, junior Zach Wright and sophomore John Wooten.
Maness and Thompson, who have garnered preseason honors from several publications, have been tabbed preseason all-conference by Baseball America and Perfect Game USA. Listed as the fifth-best top newcomer by Baseball America is freshman Jack Reinheimer, who was selected by the Atlanta Braves in the 31st round of the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft.
A quartet of Pirates were listed as Top Prospects for the 2011 Draft in Conference USA. Armstrong leads the way as the seventh-best prospect in the league by Perfect Game USA, followed by Zach Wright (10th), Michael Wright (14th) and Maness (20th). Looking ahead to the 2012 draft, John Wooten is listed as the third-best C-USA prospect, while left-hander Tyler Joyner was tabbed as the sixth-best.
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