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WOODWARD: Reaching NCAAs remains key

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East Carolina head coach Cliff Godwin (23) and others watch from the home dugout during a game against Central Florida on April 14, 2017.


The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The graphic popped up multiple times during Sunday afternoon’s ESPNews broadcast of East Carolina vs. Houston in the American Athletic Conference baseball championship game as the Pirates were trying to complete a title run as the last and No. 8 seed in Clearwater, Fla.

It read that ECU has been to 28 NCAA tournaments but never to Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series, which tops the list as the school with the most NCAA appearances without ever making the CWS.

Houston won and one day later, the Pirates were expectedly not included when the 64-team NCAA tournament field was announced.

As the Pirates transition away from a difficult and hard-to-explain season that featured unforeseen major injuries and bullpen issues but also nearly ended on a high note, it is important to understand the complexity of the balance in that graphic.

ECU’s program has been built on making regionals, not making it to Omaha because the latter has never happened. It is very difficult to make the College World Series and requires some luck, and there was some sense early in the season as the CWS being an expectation for East Carolina, which can be a dangerous situation.

The pressure only built as the season progressed, a national ranking went away and an 0-10 start in AAC play made it that the Pirates had to win the conference tournament to extend their season.

But it also was after then when a lot of the pressure was gone and the team played better and more relaxed. There was an eye on preparing for the AAC tourney.

The success in Clearwater, Fla., stemmed from that preparation and also because the nine seniors who have enjoyed plenty of postseason success likely knew what was at stake. That was a good sign for ECU and it showed an understanding that making regionals is at the heart of the program.

ECU is 2-for-3 in making the NCAA tournament under coach Cliff Godwin.

A big NCAA run last summer ended with a feeling of wanting more when the Pirates fell one hit away from Omaha. That brought about unprecedented hype and pressure for this year.

The end result was an empty feeling Monday, because East Carolina has a proud program that is set up to make regionals and that remains for the future. It just didn’t happen this year, even with ECU entering the season as a top-10 team.

Oregon State and North Carolina are the top two teams in the country this season. Neither made the NCAA field a year ago.

One very odd spring by the Pirates shouldn’t change their trajectory, and there’s no doubt that returning to the postseason and adding to the number of NCAA appearances is a focus moving forward. As that continues, the trip to Omaha eventually will take care of itself.

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


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.


October 21, 2018

These three questions appeared in The Daily Reflector’s Pirate Gameday section previewing East Carolina’s home football game against 10th-ranked Central Florida, which ended with UCF pulling away for a 37-10 victory on homecoming night at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

Here are the answers, and…


October 20, 2018

As the final seconds ticked off the clock at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday night, two numbers still resonated with the matchup between 10th-ranked Central Florida and upset-minded East Carolina.

One. Twenty.

Freshman quarterback and Greenville native Holton Ahlers was making his first start and…

102118ECUfootball-2.jpg (1).jpg

October 20, 2018

A wet ball proved to be the first major stumbling block in the first-career start by East Carolina freshman quarterback Holton Ahlers in a 37-10 loss to Central Florida on Saturday night.

After marching his trailing Pirates to the UCF goal line early in the fourth quarter, Ahlers tried a jump pass…


October 20, 2018

These three questions appeared in The Daily Reflector’s Pirate Gameday section previewing East Carolina’s home football game against 10th-ranked Central Florida. 

Check back after the primetime matchup for answers to the questions and more insight from the game.

1. Who wins the…


October 20, 2018

Before Holton Ahlers signed on Dec. 20, 2017, to play football at East Carolina, he was a star quarterback at D.H. Conley High School. Before that, a baseball slugger unlike anyone else who had ever played on Greenville recreational fields.

“That thing broke my darn windshield!" a woman…


October 20, 2018

New starting quarterback Holton Ahlers and East Carolina welcome undefeated Central Florida to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium tonight for a primetime matchup on ESPN2 that many people around the country will at least check in on to see if UCF could get upended.

There is no denying that a win by the Pirates,…


October 20, 2018

Q: Why did you want to major in criminal justice?

A: I’ve always liked (TV) shows like “Criminal Minds” and “CSI: Miami” and “Law & Order.” I just decided I wanted to be something in that field, like a DEA (Drug Enforcement…


October 19, 2018

While the American Athletic Conference East division remains a three-team race, Houston is in the driver’s seat as the only remaining unbeaten team in the West.

Houston, which just defeated East Carolina 42-20 and has won its first two league games by an average 18.5 points, moved to No. 2 in…


October 19, 2018

Central Florida’s 19-game football winning streak saw its closest contest yet last Saturday at Memphis.

The 10th-ranked Knights recovered from a slow start and rallied to win, 31-30, for a 6-0 record this season.

Following that emotional victory with a road game versus a struggling opponent…

SMU UCF Football

October 18, 2018

Less than three weeks away from starting a new season on Nov. 6, the East Carolina women’s basketball team had a major change in leadership Wednesday when head coach Heather Macy resigned at the conclusion of an ECU internal review into the program.

Macy, who is the winningest coach in ECU…

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