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Godwin: Let's break attendance record

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East Carolina players huddle together before their game against Western Carolina on Friday. Feb. 16, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Attendance watch could be at an all-time high Friday when East Carolina and North Carolina begin their rare weekend baseball series.

ECU is undefeated through four games and the temperature should be in the mid-70s at Clark-LeClair Stadium for first pitch at 5 p.m. between the Pirates and sixth-ranked Tar Heels (2-3). UNC holds a 49-27 lead in the all-time series, played mostly in midweek action.

The Clark-LeClair Stadium record for attendance of 5,581 was set during ECU’s 4-0 win over UNC on April 22, 2009, which was a Wednesday.

“Let’s break this attendance record, and that’s the thing I would like to see,” said fourth-year Pirate coach Cliff Godwin, who was an East Carolina player from 1998-2001 and is familiar with the heightened atmosphere for ECU-versus-ACC contests in all sports. “There is no excuse. The game is at 5 so their boss will let them get off 15 minutes early from work to get here, and the weather is going to be great. Come out here and pack this place.”

Saturday’s game will be held at Durham Bulls Athletic Park and Sunday’s in Chapel Hill. The idea for that kind of series stemmed from talks between Godwin and veteran Carolina coach Mike Fox.

Sophomore pitcher Trey Benton will get ECU’s first shot at the Tar Heels.

“I know there is going to be more hype and the fans will be a little bit crazier, but I’m just treating it like another game,” said Benton, who on opening day last Friday went five innings with seven strikeouts and two runs allowed in a win over Western Carolina. “I’m just going out there to do my routine and execute pitches for my team.”

For the Heels, this will be a continuation of their challenging early-season schedule that has an American Athletic Conference feel. They played at AAC squad South Florida last weekend, winning two of three games, before losing to UNC Wilmington and St. John’s in Chapel Hill earlier this week.

Godwin talked about the in-state significance, and potential economic impact, of this weekend before his squad’s practice Thursday.

“It is really unique that we play at home on Friday night and in Durham on Saturday, but it’s beneficial for both programs on Saturday because you get to split the profits that you make on Saturday night,” he said. “It should be good weather (again Saturday) and with ticket sales and concessions and I think they are serving alcohol in Durham. It will be beneficial for both programs to do that, and then play Game 3 in Chapel Hill.”

WEEKEND WATCH

Gavin Williams, East Carolina: ECU’s first four games were mainly blowouts, but Godwin might have tipped his hand when freshman pitcher Williams pitched the ninth inning Wednesday night at Campbell and he struck out all three batters with his mid-90s fastball. In high-pressure or save situations against UNC, the Pirates could be turning to their talented rookie from Fayetteville on the mound.

Michael Busch, North Carolina: Big bats on each team come in the form of sophomore first basemen. Busch and ECU’s Spencer Brickhouse each have two home runs already this year, and Busch brings a .409 average and 10 RBIs into today. He had one RBI and two walks in the Heels’ 3-2 win over East Carolina in Chapel Hill last season.

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

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