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Changes ahead for Williams-Sutton?

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ECU outfielder Dwanya Williams-Sutton makes a catch last season at Clark-LeClair stadium Friday.

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By Ronnie Woodward
The Daily Reflector

Monday, January 9, 2017

East Carolina baseball outfielder Dwanya Williams-Sutton is nearing full health but not completely there.

He is mainly limited by his throwing after an offseason shoulder surgery, and the Pirates are just weeks away from preseason team practices and a little more than a month from opening the season Feb. 17 at Mississippi.

"He's on track and he's doing good to play left field on opening day at Ole Miss," ECU coach Cliff Godwin said Wednesday. “If he has a setback he might (be a designated hitter), but right now the rehab stuff is going great.”

Players returned to campus late last week and Monday was the first scheduled day for individual and group NCAA-limited workouts.

Williams-Sutton, a freshman All-American last season who led the American Athletic Conference in batting average (.360) and on-base percentage (.455), made 46 starts in left field as a rookie and nine at DH, but Godwin also said he could be more versatile as a sophomore.

The only two positions where the Pirates do not have a returning starter are right field and center field, where Garrett Brooks and Parker Lamm were seniors a year ago and quality defensive players. The options to play those positions, especially center, include returnees Williams-Sutton and Brady Lloyd.

Newcomers also looking to fill spots are freshman Bryant Packard from D.H. Conley High School and a pair of speedy junior college transfers in Andrew Henrickson (Pitt Community College) and TJ Riles from Wallace (Ala.) CC.

"For (Williams-Sutton) next year, he needs to be marketable that he can be able to go out and play all three (outfield) positions," Godwin said of the 6-foot-1, 234-pounder and former Wilson Greenfield School standout who was an all-state selection in high school at baseball and soccer. "He's probably most comfortable in center, believe it or not. He played center in high school and he definitely has the speed to play center field and I have no reservations putting him out there.

"I just know he's going to be in the outfield, but I don't know where."

January schedule

The Pirates will work out in accordance with NCAA rules until their first official preseason practice on Jan. 27.

Godwin said he is ready to get to late January, partly because of the momentum that has boiled over from last season's NCAA tournament run to the super regional round and increased expectations for his veteran squad for this year.

"We want to get to work and our kids are fired up to be back (after Christmas break)," he said. "We talk about (Alabama’s) Nick Saban is the best (coach) in college football and you have to focus on the process of trying to get a little bit better every single day. People always say that but I don't think they actually live it. I think that we do a pretty good job of living it."

On the polls

Godwin's go-to line about his club being so highly thought of nationally during the preseason was, "It's good for the program."

When the first preseason college baseball poll came out recently and Collegiate Baseball had ECU at No. 13, Godwin said fans were quick to congratulate him on the ranking. He wants his players to remain focused on the season ahead, however, rather than anything that might come the team’s way before traveling to Ole Miss for a big opening series.

The Rebels were ranked 22nd by Collegiate Baseball.

"What I tell our kids is that it's good for our program and it's good for the body of work that they put in last year, but other than that it is nothing," said Godwin, who is 78-45-1 in two seasons at ECU and who interviewed at Alabama during the summer but ultimately chose to stay with the Pirates. "One of our mottos is ignore the noise, which I stole from Bill Belichick (of the New England Patriots). We didn't believe what people said about us two years ago when everybody thought we would be lucky to be above .500, but we won 40 games. So why now are we going to listen to people patting us on the back before we've played a game?”

In the classroom

The Pirates put together another outstanding effort in the classroom, getting a record 30 players on the ECU fall director of athletics honor roll. As a team, the Pirates had a 3.41 semester grade point average.

“Earning a 3.42 GPA last fall and backing it up with a 3.41 GPA this fall is very hard to do,” Godwin said in a release. “A big thank you goes out to our academic advisor Rebecca Wade, who is a huge part of our success academically.”

Jake Agnos, Hunter Hood, Kirk Morgan, Ryan Ross and Travis Watkins had 4.0 GPAs.

Another honor for pitcher

Senior pitcher Evan Kruczynski was named a third-team All-American by Perfect Game on Monday, joining his third-team All-America selection from Collegiate Baseball.

The left-hander also was voted as American Athletic Conference co-pitcher of the year.

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 or follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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