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Packard's plan to lead off again

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East Carolina’s Bryant Packard reaches down to swing against Western Carolina on Feb. 17, 2018.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Monday, January 7, 2019

All-American Bryant Packard is slated to be East Carolina baseball’s leadoff hitter for the second straight season, a plan coach Cliff Godwin has for the American Athletic Conference preseason player of the year based partly on simple math.

It also is tied to slugger Spencer Brickhouse, who like Packard is a proven left-handed hitter as both prepare for the start of their junior campaigns.

“I want him, as of right now, and Brickhouse to both hit in the first inning,” said Godwin, an ECU alum who will begin his fifth season as the Pirates’ head coach on Feb. 15 at home against Radford, during an interview Monday morning. “If I want them both to hit in the first inning and I don’t want them to hit back to back, then one needs to hit first and one needs to hit third. … If Bryant Packard leads off then he is going to get more at-bats than any other person on our team, and mathematically that is going to happen.”

Godwin added that lineups naturally change throughout the course of a season and that Packard was not in the No. 1 spot to begin 2018. That role originally went to Turner Brown, while Packard was second in the order.

Packard, who was highly recruited out of D.H. Conley High School and has been a consistent performer since arriving at ECU, ranked sixth nationally in batting average a year ago with a .406 mark. He might not be viewed as a prototypical leadoff man because of his body frame and slugging ability, but his breakout sophomore season that included 14 home runs led to him becoming the first Pirate to ever earn inclusion to seven All-America teams in the same season.

“I want one of our best hitters to get the most opportunities to hit, and I think it worked out well for us last year,” Godwin said. “Pack and I have talked about it and he said that he loves it and it’s not like it’s something he doesn’t want to do. For our team, I can’t see how he doesn’t lead off.”

Brickhouse, who had a .298 average with 10 home runs as a sophomore, and Packard each totaled 50 RBIs last year.

This offseason served as Packard’s first time being completely healthy and a full participant for fall workouts, while some other key players were out or were limited because of injuries.

Godwin said Monday that Brown, a starting shortstop and one of the team’s seven seniors, is back to full health after offseason surgery.

“Turner is 100 percent healthy, and he could go out and play in a game tomorrow if we had to,” Godwin said.

The coach added that catcher Seth Caddell and pitchers Jake Agnos, Trey Benton and Alec Burleson, all three of whom in the mix for weekend rotation spots, also are 100 percent. Potential starting pitchers Jake Kuchmaner and Gavin Williams will continue to use the next few weeks to build back their arm strength and stamina.

Godwin said veteran outfielder Dusty Baker (arm) is at about 90 percent and that freshman outfielder Christian Jayne (hip surgery) is still working his way back as East Carolina has been conducting voluntary workouts and limited team work in the buildup to its first official preseason scrimmage on Jan. 25.

“We are in a much better place today than we were four months ago,” Godwin said in updating the injury report.

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

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