ECU baseball rises to number eight in the country
SAT. | 03-27-21 | SPORTS
Right down the road from Rose, you will find Clark LeClair Stadium, home of the East Carolina University (ECU) baseball team. Approaching the season as high as 13th in the nation in among various preseason polls, many had lofty expectations for the team to have a successful season after having so many players return from the shortened season due to COVID-19 last year.
Thus far in the season, the Pirates have cruised to a 16-4 record, sitting at a national ranking of #8 in the country. They have swept weekend series’ against Rhode Island (Feb. 19-21), Appalachian State (Mar. 5-7), Charlotte (Mar. 12-14) and Illinois State (Mar. 19-21). As well as a weekend series, with a series win against Georgia State (Feb. 26-28) and two midweek wins against #25 Duke (Feb. 23 and Mar. 9). Their most recent outing was on Tuesday, Mar. 23 against #24 University of North Carolina (UNC) where ECU lost 8-1. While the Pirates have struggled this year in the mid-week matchups losing
Picture by Jackson Surles
three out of their four this season, they have dominated their weekend series opponents which has led them to climb the rankings the way they have.
Coming into the season not even projected to be the “team to beat” in the American Athletic Conference (AAC), the Pirates have picked up right where they left off in previous years and proven to be the top dog of AAC baseball once again. Winning the conference postseason tournament in 2015 and 2018, as well as winning the regular season championship in 2019 and having much success last year before the season was cut short. ECU has been the powerhouse of the conference and given themselves a huge reputation across the country as the face of AAC baseball.
This Pirate team has been led by some huge offensive threats such as sophomore Connor Norby who is arguably the best player in baseball this season so far with a .450 batting average and six home runs and is currently tied for leading the nation in hits with 36. Behind him is sophomore Thomas Francisco with a .354 batting average, three home runs, and 28 hits. Another prominent player has been freshman standout Josh Moylan, sporting a .340 average with four homers and 18 hits.
While the offense has shown up ready to compete night in and night out, many would attest that the deep pitching staff of ECU has been the backbone of this team’s success this season. With a team earned run average (ERA) of 3.29, the starters have proven to be consistently dominant, and the powerhouse bullpen has shown to be reliable and huge when they are needed most. Freshman Carson Whisenhunt has been the guy to watch when he has taken the mound for the Pirates this year. Settling in as the Saturday/Sunday guy for the Pirates he has looked untouchable at times. Whisenhunt has led the team in innings pitched as well as strikeouts with 27.2 Innings pitched (IP) and 41 strikeouts (K)’s. With a 4-0 record and a 2.28 ERA, he has been vital to this team's weekend series success stories.
Although he hasn’t been pitching too much this season so far, ace Gavin Williams has returned to the mound after recovering from an injury. He is a highly scouted MLB prospect and is expected to be drafted after the season is over. After putting up excellent numbers his past two seasons, much of the Pirates success in the big postseason games will likely lean on how well this guy can throw when he gets the start or comes out of the pen. As well as Whisenhunt and Williams, veteran reliever senior Cam Colemore and freshman C.J. Mayhue have proven to be the go-to guys out of the pen. Substantially leading the team in IP, they have thrown very well thus far and have come up huge in big spots for the Pirates this season. While I call them the “go-to-guys,” truthfully the vast majority of the pen has been very active which attests to the depth of their pitching staff.
While I am only scratching the surface of playmakers and studs that this roster holds, on any given night, any guy on that team has the ability to come in and have success. Coach Cliff Godwin, the head coach of the team discussed the depth of this team earlier this season in a postgame press conference.
“We have guys on this roster that are starters, and haven’t even touched the field yet.” Godwin said.
ECU has one last weekend two-game series against Elon on Friday, Mar. 26, and Saturday, Mar. 27 before facing UNC again next Tuesday, and then begin conference play that following weekend against Cincinnati. As a fan that goes to the majority of home games and has seen what this team is capable of, they are a very good team that can be very dangerous. If the Pirates continue their hot streak into postseason play, they will be a difficult matchup for any team they face. Although ECU has yet to reach the College World Series in program history, they have still proven that they are able to win games in the postseason, and have the potential to make it, this team specifically is very capable of ending the drought and making the distance one game at a time, one inning at a time, one pitch at a time. As North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper continues to ease the restrictions of fan attendance at outdoor sporting events, I strongly encourage anyone reading this to go out and support this team and go to as many games as you can. Go Pirates.