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Pirate pitchers putting in work

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Jake Agnos pitches against Charlotte during his freshman season.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Friday, October 20, 2017

A former East Carolina catcher and now in is fourth year as ECU’s baseball coach, Cliff Godwin doesn’t make it easy on pitchers.

The Pirates are going through fall practice and this is a time where workouts can vary from day to day based on a particular skill, situation or focus. Godwin keeps a keen eye on his hurlers, especially after struggles on the mound by last season’s team were costly.

“I tell the pitchers that I don’t necessarily like pitchers, and I think they make their job hard at times,” Godwin said before a recent practice. “But this group, as a whole, is the hardest working pitching staff I’ve ever been with. Not even close.

“I always think that the position guys work harder than the pitchers, but there’s been days where I’ve walked away and said, ‘Our pitchers outworked our positions players.’”

Pitching coach Dan Roszel said the only pitcher who has been sidelined significantly this fall is Evan Voliva, who had Tommy John surgery in the spring.

A talented and apparently improving sophomore class led by right-handers Trey Benton and Tyler Smith along with lefty Jake Agnos is likely to be key to the season. Godwin and Roszel both identified Agnos and junior Chris Holba as pitchers showing strong leadership.

Injuries and underperformance by some upperclassmen were impactful a year ago, and it was Benton who finished as the team-leader in innings pitched with 71. Agnos was second at 64.1.

The Pirates could be headed for a weekend rotation of Agnos, Benton and Holba, but fall workouts are also big on looking at the big picture and sometimes individuals simply focusing on getting better at certain pitches and strategies.

“Just like every fall, it is to make sure that guys are going to be healthy for the whole year,” Roszel said. “We are working on that and building up their endurance, whether it’s running or still getting them in the weight room. We’re trying to build up their arm strength and do all the little things to make sure that they are successful in the spring time.

“Of course you want them to pitch well in the fall, but it’s all part of the means to an end.”

Maybe the team’s most intriguing newcomer is freshman Gavin Williams, a 6-foot-6 righty from Fayetteville who drew high praise during a prep career that saw him post 212 strikeouts with 74 walks and a 1.06 ERA in 132 innings. According to Roszel, his velocity is legit.

“He’s throwing well, and he turned down some money and could have been drafted higher and out of here with some big money,” Roszel said. “He’s tall and has some size to him and the ball is firm out of his hand. We’re working to make him better and we have to improve on his breaking ball consistency, but the changeup is a really good pitch and he’s our hardest thrower right up there with Trey Benton.”

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

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