Earlier in the week, the student athletes that make up the East Carolina baseball team completed their final exams for the spring semester. Now that the academic year has ended, the team’s sole focus is to continue the momentum it built from its series win against Conference USA-leading Southern Miss last weekend.
ECU (26-22, 10-8 C-USA) has won nine of its last eleven games and currently sits in fifth place of the league standings. Prompting players and coaches to believe they can still qualify for a regional with six games left until the conference tournament.
“Towards the end of the year is when you want to get hot, when you want to make a run, … We’re playing really good ball right now,” said C-USA hitter of the week Chase McDonald, following his walk-off single to win Sunday’s rubber game.
McDonald has been instrumental in the Pirates’ recent success and progression at the plate as the season’s gone on. The two players that precede the ECU first baseman in the batting order—Drew Reynolds and Zach Houchins—have arguably been just as hot of late.
Houchins is 24 for his last 50 at-bats (.440) – including eight multi-hit games – while Reynolds has a hit in each of the last 12 games and a team-best .324 batting average this season.
“A couple weeks or a month ago, we were fighting for that guy (to step up), but now it’s Chase (McDonald), Zach Houchins, and Drew Reynolds. There’s a different guy every day,” said Godwin.
“With good teams, that’s what you to have to have.”
Marshall (18-29, 5-13 C-USA) wouldn’t be classified as one of those ‘good teams’ Godwin eluded to. After getting swept last weekend in Memphis, the Thundering Herd rank eighth out of the nine C-USA schools, which is only one game better than Alabama-Birmingham (4-14).
Junior right-hander Aaron Blair (5-4) has been solid for head coach Jeff Waggoner, sporting an impressive 2.36 ERA. In eleven starts, Blair has struck out 78 batters, which is more than twice as many than the next best pitcher’s total.
He is slated to throw against ECU redshirt-freshman David Lucroy on Saturday. The Pirates will send sophomore ace Jeff Hoffman (4-4) to the mound Friday to face left-hander Wayland Moore (2-2).
The Herd has two offensive weapons that Hoffman and the rest of the ECU pitching staff need to throw to carefully. Infielder Andrew Dundon (.310) and outfielder Issac Ballou (.309) are the only two players in the Marshall lineup with a plus-.300 batting average.
The pitching matchup for Sunday’s finale will be Ryan Williams (6-2) for ECU and Michael Taylor (3-5) for Marshall.
History shows that the Pirates’ have had the Herds’ number. In 23 all-time meetings, ECU has won 19 of them, including the last four games.
The series between the Herd and the Pirates begins on Friday at 3 p.m. Saturday's game is set for 7 p.m. and 1 p.m. Sunday. All three games will be broadcast on the Pirate IMG Sports Network.