Pirates have plenty of lineup options
By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector
Thursday, February 8, 2018
East Carolina baseball coach Cliff Godwin has about a week to solidify his team’s opening-day batting order for the game against Western Carolina on Feb. 16.
Bryant Packard’s preseason surge after his return from a back injury has clouded some of the specifics in a good way for the Pirates, but Godwin does have clarity in not planning for junior outfielder Dwanya Williams-Sutton to be at the top of the order. The Pirates’ fourth-year coach said Monday at media day that Williams-Sutton is “probably not” going to be a leadoff guy after playing the role some last season, but instead will be in a key middle-of-the-order spot.
Turner Brown, Dusty Baker and Brady Lloyd could be leadoff options.
“I can pretty much be comfortable anywhere, but if I had to choose I would say the three or four hole and get more RBIs,” said Williams-Sutton, who was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 26th round of the 2015 Major League Baseball draft but chose to stick to his commitment to the Pirates and play collegiately in hopes of improving his draft stock.
Packard is a sophomore and former D.H. Conley High School standout who made 30 starts last season. He can play in the outfield or be a designated hitter, where Alec Burleson and Spencer Brickhouse also are starting DH candidates with big power potential.
“(Packard) has kind of added to the depth out there, but it was really good to see him be healthy for the past two weekends,” Godwin said. “Packard is the guy who has kind of thrown us the curveball and I can tell you that if Bryant Packard is healthy, then he is going to play on Feb. 16 and where he is playing I don’t know yet. He will be playing somewhere and hitting at the top of the order with the way he has been swinging the bat.”
Looking to join Packard, Williams-Sutton, Brickhouse and Burleson as lead RBI producers is junior college transfer Connor Litton, who is set to start at third base. Fellow key JUCO addition Chandler Jenkins is one of the many corner outfield options after he batted .460 with 18 home runs a year ago at Catawba Valley Community College.
Brickhouse, a 6-foot-4, 223-pound first baseman, is likely to be a fixture in the middle of the order after he tied for the team lead last season with 10 home runs. He got off to a great start to his freshman season and finished with a .310 average to go with his 10 homers and 28 RBIs, but he also had the most strikeouts (57) on the team and used the offseason to focus on specific aspects of his game.
“Coach Godwin has really worked with me on being more disciplined at the plate, because I swung at a lot of balls that were outside of the (strike) zone last year,” said Brickhouse, a Zebulon native who earned freshman All-America honors. “That frustrated me and I took what he said to heart with all of the stuff he has taught me over this year and a half. I’ve used that to help me out at the plate, and (assistant) coach Jeff Palumbo has done a lot with me defensively.”
Contact Ronnie Woodward at email@example.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.