East Carolina coach Cliff Godwin is open about the Pirates’ quest to earn one of the top eight seeds in the NCAA Tournament.
He sees no reason to keep quiet about it.
The top eight seeds get to host regionals and super regionals, assuming they get that far. That means plenty for an East Carolina program that has never reached the College World Series.
East Carolina (36-11, 16-2 American Athletic Conference) is ranked eighth by Baseball America and ninth by D1Baseball and Collegiate Baseball .
“With media and social media, it’s in their face every day,” Godwin said. “We talk about it. Look, at the end of the day, all we can do is put our best foot forward each day. We talk about staying in the present moment.”
East Carolina is on the verge of clinching its first conference regular-season title in a decade.
Just one more conference win by East Carolina or one more conference loss by Tulane (28-19, 10-7) would enable East Carolina to claim the AAC regular-season crown. East Carolina won the AAC Tournament in 2015 and 2018 but hasn’t won a regular-season league championship since earning the Conference USA title in 2009.
After getting off to an 8-5 start, East Carolina won 17 of 19 before getting swept in a three-game series at UCLA, the nation’s consensus No. 1 team. Since returning from UCLA, East Carolina has won 11 of its last 12 games.
First baseman Spencer Brickhouse says the Pirates benefited from the UCLA experience. They noticed how the Bruins paid attention to details and capitalized on every East Carolina mistake while avoiding lapses of their own.
“We hadn’t been challenged the way UCLA challenged us,” Brickhouse said. “That was kind of an eye-opening experience. We hung with them the first two games, but it came down to just being detail-oriented and making the plays when they really need to be made. That’s something we focused on once we got back, and it’s kind of carried on through these last 12 games.”
East Carolina will try to continue this surge it chases that elusive College World Series berth.
The Pirates have made 29 NCAA Tournament appearances without ever making it to Omaha. ECU’s closest call came in 2016, when it lost a best-of-3 super regional with Texas Tech despite taking the first game and having the winning run on third base in the 11th and 12th innings of the second game.
“We’ve never been able to break through for whatever reason, but what I do know is that we have the right people in that locker room, we have the right coaches, we have the right support staff and we have the right fans,” said Godwin, a former East Carolina catcher. “It’s going to happen one day.”
MILESTONE WIN FOR OLE MISS
Mississippi won two of three games at LSU over the weekend for its first series win at Baton Rouge since 1982. The Rebels had lost 19 consecutive series at LSU.
Ole Miss (32-17, 15-9 SEC) won 19-15 on Sunday in one of the wildest games played anywhere this season. Ole Miss led 15-9 with two outs and none on in the bottom of the ninth inning before LSU (30-18, 14-10) came back to tie the game and capped its rally with three straight homers. The Rebels responded by scoring four runs in the top of the 10th.
LSU’s lone win in that series was an 8-3 decision on Friday. LSU’s Drew Bianco, the son of Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco, homered in that game.
RECORD WEEKEND FOR SURGING VANDY
Vanderbilt pitcher Patrick Raby set the school’s career wins record and JJ Bleday set the program’s single-season record for homers during the Commodores’ weekend sweep at South Carolina.
Raby is 8-1 this season and has 30 career wins to break the record formerly held by Jeff Peeples, who pitched for Vanderbilt from 1970-73. Bleday has 23 homers this year to pass Pedro Alvarez, who homered 22 times in 2006.
This marked Vanderbilt’s first three-game sweep at South Carolina in school history. The Commodores (38-9, 18-6 SEC) have won 11 straight.
OKLAHOMA STATE’S SURPRISING SWEEP
In a rare late-season intersectional weekend series, Oklahoma State delivered a three-game road sweep at Oregon State, which had entered the weekend with a consensus top-five ranking. Oklahoma State (28-16, 10-8 Big 12) won 1-0 on Friday, 5-2 on Saturday and 8-7 on Sunday.
This marked the first time since 2010 that Oregon State (31-14-1, 17-4 Pac-12) has been swept in a three-game series on its home field.
TRADITIONAL POWERS STRUGGLING
Florida has reached four straight College World Series and won the national title in 2017 but could have its hands full just reaching the NCAA Tournament this season. The Gators (28-21, 9-15 SEC) have dropped seven of their last nine and were swept at Georgia over the weekend.
A couple of other traditional powers are in worse shape.
South Carolina (24-23, 5-19 SEC) has lost six straight and owns the SEC’s worst conference record. Texas (25-25, 6-14 Big 12) has lost 10 of 11 and is in last place in the Big 12.