2011 Baseball Outlook
Feb. 16, 2011
After an uncharacteristic season a year ago in which the East Carolina baseball team posted a 32-27 (.542) record, sixth-year head coach Billy Godwin and his staff will look to 21 returning letterwinners to steer the Pirate ship back into post-season play.
Without any question the strength of the 2011 squad is the pitching staff as it welcomes back 13 hurlers from a year ago to go along with a trio of new faces. Offensively, the Pirates look to fill the void from the loss of power hitters Kyle Roller and Devin Harris and turn to veteran leadership on the field and at the plate from All C-USA performers Trent Whitehead and Corey Thompson, senior Austin Homan, junior Zach Wright and sophomore John Wooten.
ECU will open play on Friday, Feb. 19 at home against Youngstown State before hitting the road for the first of its seven games against Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) opponents. The Pirates will play a three-game road tilt against 2009 College World Series participant Virginia (Feb. 25-27), a midweek contest at 2010 Regional member N.C. State (Apr. 5), a home-and-home series with 2009 College World Series participant North Carolina (Apr. 12 and Apr. 27) and a neutral site matchup versus Wake Forest (May 11) at Five County Stadium in Zebulon, N.C.
The Pirates' home non-conference schedule is highlighted by the annual Keith LeClair Classic that pits the Pirates against Monmouth (Mar. 11), Rutgers (Mar. 12) and Liberty (Mar. 13). Also scheduled to make a trip to Greenville are Pepperdine (Mar. 4-6), High Point (Mar. 9), Buffalo (Mar. 16), Rutgers (Mar. 18-20) and Delaware State (May 13-15).
Conference USA play opens on March 25 for the Pirates when they play host to league foe Memphis for a three-game series. Other C-USA schools making the trek to Greenville in 2011 include Rice (Apr. 8-10), UCF (Apr. 15-17) and Southern Miss (Apr. 29-May 1). League road trips include UAB (Apr. 1-3), Houston (Apr. 21-23), Marshall (May 6-8) and Tulane (May 19-21).
Along with NCAA Regional participant Elon (Mar. 15 and Mar. 30), ECU will have home-and-home series against Campbell (Mar. 1 and Mar. 8), UNC Wilmington (Mar. 29 and Apr. 19) and Old Dominion (Apr. 26 and May 17).
The annual C-USA Tournament is set for May 25-28 at Trustmark Park in Pearl, Miss., the AA minor league home of the Atlanta Braves.
All-American Seth Maness (Pinehurst, N.C.) will get the nod as the Friday night starter when the season opens on Feb. 18. The 2010 Conference USA Pitcher-of-the-Year logged a league-high 101.1 innings over 17 appearances (15 starts) and posted a conference second-best 10 wins. He registered 90 strikeouts and walked just 16 batters all season, both ranking among the league leaders. The right-hander tossed one complete game and added a save in one of two relief appearances.
A three-time first-team All-C-USA performer, Maness earned all-tournament honors after posting his 10th win of the season during the 2010 C-USA Championship against Southern Miss, where he carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning before giving up a leadoff double to Tyler Koelling. Maness shook off the bump in the road to remain effective throughout his time toeing the rubber, giving up just one unearned run on five hits in 7.2 innings.
Heading into the season opener, Maness has been named to three preseason all-america teams garnering second-team honors by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and third-team designations by Collegiate Baseball and College Baseball Lineup (formerly Ping!Baseball). He was named preseason first-team All C-USA by the league coaches for the third-consecutive year and Collegiate Baseball tabbed him as the Preseason Pitcher-of-the-Year.
Fellow classmate Zach Woods (Virginia Beach, Va.) returns to the weekend rotation as the Saturday starter following an impressive 2010 season where he became the third-straight Pirate pitcher to be named C-USA Newcomer-of-the-Year (Justin Bristow/2008 and Chris Heston/2009). The second-team All C-USA performer led the league in strikeouts (103) and batters struck out looking (39), while ranking third in wins (8). His best outing occurred on Mar. 30 against in-state rival Elon, where he registered a career-best 15 strikeouts (tied for sixth-most in school history) in 7.2 shutout innings on his way to Louisville Slugger National Player-of-the-Week honors. Overall, Woods finished with an 8-4 record with a 4.50 ERA and one save in 90.0 innings pitched.
Joining Maness and Woods in the weekend rotation is junior Michael Wright. The 6-5 right-hander from Laurinburg, N.C. appeared in 22 games with three starts in 2010 posting a 2-2 record with 31 strikeouts and five walks in 35.0 innings. In his first start of the season against Monmouth, Wright fanned a career-best eight batters in 5.1 innings where he surrendered a pair of runs on three hits in a 16-2 victory. He picked up his second win in his next outing against N.C. Central after allowing a run on three hits in 3.0 innings of work.
While the opening weekend rotation is set, Coach Roszel has slew of arms to choose from as the season goes along. Senior utility pitcher Brad Mincey (Wilmington, N.C.) and junior Kevin Brandt (Fuquay Varina, N.C.) are battle tested and bring a wealth of experience both as starters and coming out of the bullpen. Despite missing nearly a month due to an injury in 2010, Mincey appeared in 17 games making six starts where he was 3-1 with a 5.83 ERA and 29 strikeouts. He notched his first win of the season against South Carolina on Feb. 28 after allowing one run (unearned) on three hits in seven innings and followed that up with victories against Campbell and Houston.
Brandt, who was part of the weekend rotation a year ago, posted a 3-7 record with a 5.21 ERA and 69 punch outs. The left-hander earned the win in his first start of the 2010 season against No. 2 Virginia after allowing one run on five hits in 6.2 innings of work and four strikeouts. Brandt's most impressive outing was against C-USA foe Memphis (Apr. 11) on the road in a complete-game effort striking out 11 (tied career-high) with no walks.
In 2009, Brandt took home Freshman All-America honors after boasting a 9-2 record in 28 games (six starts). During his rookie season he picked six of his nine wins in relief including a brilliant performance against No. 11 Oklahoma State where he tossed 6.1 innings of scoreless relief with seven strikeouts in his collegiate debut. As a starter he was 3-2 with a 5.00 ERA and recorded wins against in-state rival N.C. State, No. 1 North Carolina and No. 22 South Carolina.
Power right-hander Shawn Armstrong (New Bern, N.C.) could see action as a starter and coming out of the bullpen for the Pirates. The redshirt sophomore appeared in 22 games last season making three starts (Cal State Northridge, James Madison and Houston) and posting a 0-2 record with a 4.30 ERA, 45 strikeouts and 15 walks. Armstrong will likely become a starter as the season progresses, but with his arm strength and a 6-foot-2, 215-pound frame, don't be surprised if he's called upon to close out a few games.
Two other potential starters but most likely candidates for long relief are sophomore Joseph Hughes (Madison, N.C.) and true freshman Austin Chrismon (Newport News, Va.). Hughes worked 18.2 innings over eight games (four starts) sporting a 1-1 record with 13 strikeouts and nine walks. He recorded his first collegiate win in his first career start against Gardner-Webb working 5.2 innings where he allowed five runs (two earned) and struck out a career-best five batters. Hughes also registered starts against High Point, UNC Wilmington and Campbell, where he suffered his lone loss.
Chrismon, a 32nd round selection by the Houston Astros last June, will see action out of the bullpen as the year gets going until he becomes more comfortable playing at the collegiate level. The 6-foot-2, 224-pound right-hander has three quality pitches and was rated as the fifth top senior prospect in the state of Virginia in 2010.
Sophomore Jake Harris (Raleigh, N.C.) will get his fare share of innings for the Pirates relief staff as the season unfolds. The left-hander appeared in 18 games posting a 2-0 record with 19 strikeouts in 22.1 innings of work. Against in-state rival Elon (Mar. 30), he helped preserve Woods' shutout by allowing only a walk in 1.1 innings. On two occasions he made extended relief appearances of two or more frames notching wins against High Point (Mar. 23) and UNC Wilmington (Apr. 27) where he also fanned a career-best four hitters.
Also seeing action out of the bullpen will be senior Mike Anderson (Cortlandt Manor, N.Y.), junior Lance Honeycutt (Coats, N.C.), sophomore D.J. Jauss (West Roxbury, Mass.), redshirt freshman Tanner Merritt (Greenville, N.C.) freshman Dario Santangelo (Edison, N.J.) and junior Patrick Somers (Chantilly, Va.).
Contending for the top backup spot are a pair of freshman in Will Connerley (Mechanicsville, Va.) and Joshua Lovick (Kinston, N.C.). Connerley batted .425 with four home runs as a senior at Lee Davis High School where he helped the Confederates to the Capital District Crown (co-champs) taking home district player-of-the-year and second-team all-state honors. Lovick also smacked four home runs during his senior year at Kinston High School and added 23 RBI while hitting an impressive .518 on his way to ECC Player-of-the-Year and 2A All-State honors.