New core looks ahead
By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector
Monday, February 5, 2018
Familiar faces who led the last few East Carolina baseball teams have exited and officially given way to emerging leaders.
Some of those players were put in the spotlight Monday for the Pirates’ annual media day event, answering questions about an optimistic and refocused club that is aiming to get back to the NCAA postseason after missing out a year ago despite sky-high preseason expectations.
Nobody has moved to the forefront more in terms of leadership than Turner Brown. The now-veteran shortstop is back for his junior season with 113 career starts already to his credit.
“I mean my first interview I freaked out, so I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable and it’s easier,” said Brown, who added there doesn’t seem to be a hierarchy with this squad in terms of which players can speak up at a certain time.
Outfielder Dwanya Williams-Sutton, also a junior, is another key player and is aiming for a full and productive season after injuries have limited him in the past. He also said he has worked on being more present and demonstrative with teammates despite that not naturally being easy for him.
“Something bad is going to happen in the outfield and you may drop a ball, but I’m an older guy and I need to speak up more when I’m out there and make them feel comfortable,” he said. “(Communicating) is the most important part I feel like out on the field, because you need communication to have a successful team.”
Offsetting a batting lineup that could remain fluid during the first few weeks of the season, which begins Feb. 16 at home against Western Carolina, is a pitching staff led by a solid and experienced quartet of Jake Agnos, Trey Benton, Chris Holba and Tyler Smith.
Fourth-year coach Cliff Godwin shed some light on the weekend rotation, saying that Holba is slated for the Sunday starting spot. That likely means a rotation of Benton, Agnos and Holba to begin the campaign.
“(Holba) did not pitch this weekend, but he will pitch on Sunday (in a scrimmage) and hopefully go three innings,” Godwin said of the right-handed junior who has experienced some arm soreness this preseason. “As it is scheduled, he will pitch on Sunday opening weekend.”
Benton and Agnos are both sophomores who are looking to build on their success from a season ago. They both were at media day and looked poised one year after they were rookies in preseason and trying to find their way on a senior-laden team.
“I’ve been someone who has always had a chip on my shoulder and especially if I want to be a starter and a go-to guy, I’m going to have to have that every time I come out,” Agnos said. “I think the pitching staff as a whole has done a good job just going out there with the chip on their shoulder and acting the part and playing the part and acting like they have been there before.
“We’ve all gotten better and done a good job of communicating and coaching one another and being able to take that criticism or that coaching. It’s just been fun to be around these guys and I think collectively as a whole we have kind of evolved and grown together.”
Contact Ronnie Woodward at email@example.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.