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East Carolina's Cliff Godwin coaches third base for the USA Collegiate National Team in Cary last week.

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The Daily Reflector

Thursday, July 5, 2018

CARY — Cliff Godwin is a hitting guru.

The East Carolina alumnus and head baseball coach can break down his players’ swings with ease as he leans on the back of a batting cage before an ECU game. He also likes to form a comprehensive scouting report on an opposing pitcher.

The latter can be difficult this summer as he serves as the USA Collegiate National Team hitting and third base coach, but it is providing Godwin with a new wrinkle on hitting.

“We found out that (a Chinese Taipei starting pitcher) was left-handed like 15 minutes before the game,” he said last week. “You just go up there and see what he has, and then guys communicate to one another. … There is just that unknown and you don’t know anything about them and their players and the style of play, other than what they have done in the past.

“It’s different and it makes the coaches uncomfortable, but it is neat to have a different country on the other side.”

This is Godwin’s second straight summer working with USA Baseball. The collegiate team’s manager is LSU’s Paul Mainieri, who is one of Godwin’s mentors as the ECU skipper was a hitting coach for Mainieri and the Tigers from 2006-08 and helped them land a No. 1-ranked recruiting class and make it to Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series during his years in Baton Rouge, La.

The USA roster is loaded with big swingers, including this year’s Golden Spikes Award winner in California’s Andrew Vaughn. He is coming off a sophomore season at Cal in which he batted .402 with 23 home runs.

Today is an off day for the club after it played Japan on Wednesday for an Independence Day game at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

“No. 1 is these are some of the best hitters in the country,” Godwin said. “I’m trying to help them with their approach and what guys are trying to do to us. But really we’re just trying to talk to each other and see what guys are doing, because we don’t have many scouting reports.”

ECU’s representatives on the team are pitcher Jake Agnos and outfielder Bryant Packard. There are several Atlantic Coast Conference players, including an N.C. State duo in catcher Patrick Bailey and infielder Will Wilson.

“I told Will Wilson that was the only time I ever liked an N.C. State guy hitting a home run,” Godwin joked. “But it’s been great. All of these young adults are great guys, and it’s a good group to be around.”

The USA-Japan series will conclude in Macon, Ga., on Sunday. Then the Americans will travel outside of the country for their first and only time, heading to Havana, Cuba, to end their schedule with the seventh annual USA versus Cuba International Friendship Series slated for July 13-18.

“I think that will be fun,” Godwin said. “It definitely will be different and we’ll probably be without some of the American amenities for sure.”

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


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