Countdown To Opening Day: The Schedule
Feb. 6, 2014
Coming off a third place finish in Conference USA, where ninth-year head coach Billy Godwin led East Carolina to six-straight league series wins to close out the season, the Pirates are poised to return to post-season play behind an even mix of veterans and newcomers.
Without any question, the strength of this year's club will be its pitching as it welcomes back nine hurlers from a year ago to go along with six new faces. Anchoring the staff will be a pair of 2013 Second-Team All-Conference USA pitchers in Jeff Hoffman (RHP) and David Lucroy (RHP), while the backend of the bullpen will be occupied by All-American and Stopper-of-the-Year Watch List honoree Drew Reynolds.
Offensively, the Pirates look to fill the void from the loss of C-USA home run (13) and RBI (46) champion Chase McDonald, as well as three-year veteran Jack Reinheimer at shortstop. But East Carolina does return second-team all-league third baseman Zach Houchins, who stood among the C-USA leaders in four offensive categories. The sophomore trio of Garrett Brooks (OF), Luke Lowery (1B/C) and 2013 C-USA All-Freshman squad member Travis Watkins (C), along with senior outfielders Dylan Brown and Ben Fultz brings a combined 331 games of experience to an offensive squad that led the league with a .279 batting average a year ago.
Early on in the preseason polls the Pirates, who have garnered early national rankings by Perfect Game (No. 29), National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (No. 34) and Collegiate Baseball (No. 38), will play 28 games against 12 teams that are ranked or receiving votes prior to the start of the season next Friday, Feb. 14. Of those 28 contests, 13 come against Top-25 clubs in Florida Atlantic (3 games), North Carolina (2), NC State (2), Rice (3) and Virginia (3).
ECU will play 15 of its first 21 games at Clark-LeClair Stadium as well as seven of its final 10 contests. The Pirates will open play on Friday, Feb. 14 at home against former Colonial Athletic Association foe James Madison in a three-game series before hosting Campbell on Feb. 18.
The Pirates hit the road for the first time on Feb. 21 when they play the first of four Atlantic Coast Conference institutions, traveling to 2013 Super Regional participant Virginia for a three-game tilt in Charlottesville.
After a midweek clash at Virginia Commonwealth (Feb. 26), ECU returns home to host the annual Keith LeClair Classic, which pits the Pirates against Western Kentucky (Feb. 28), Pittsburgh (Mar. 1) and Ohio State (Mar. 2). Following a midweek game at UNC Greensboro (Mar. 5), ECU will play eight of its next nine contests at home and will open its final season in Conference USA hosting Marshall (Mar. 7-9) before playing UNC Greensboro at Clark-LeClair on Mar. 11.
On Wednesday, Mar. 12 the Pirates will square off with Wake Forest at Fleming Stadium in Wilson before hosting Tulane (Mar. 14-16) and Virginia Commonwealth (Mar. 19) to close out the home stand.
The Pirates renew their old C-USA rivalry with Charlotte (Mar. 21-23) in the Queen City before playing five-straight games at home against UNC Wilmington (Mar. 25), N.C. Central (Mar. 26) and UMBC (Mar. 28-30) on their conference bye weekend.
Over the next four weeks, the Pirates will play 11 of its next 17 games against 2013 NCAA Regional Teams including home and home contests against College World Series participants NC State (Apr. 2 and Apr. 9) and North Carolina (Apr. 22 and Apr. 29). Sandwiched in between the two games with the Wolfpack is a three-game road series at perennial power Rice (Apr. 4-6), while the following weekend will be another C-USA road series with Old Dominion (Apr. 11-13).
The second of two games with UNC Wilmington will be played at Brooks Field on Apr. 15 before ECU squares off against Middle Tennessee (Apr. 17-19) at home and Florida Atlantic (Apr. 25-27) in Boca Raton, Fla.
Closing out the schedule in its final 10 games are home league series against Florida International (May 2-4) and UTSA (May 15-17), as well as a three-game road trip to long-time C-USA foe Southern Miss (May 9-11). ECU's last non-conference game of the year will be at home against High Point on May 13.
The 2014 C-USA Baseball Championships will be held May 21-25 at Pete Taylor Park on the campus of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Miss.