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Regional moments still resonate with Godwin

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East Carolina plays South Carolina on June 2, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Friday, January 11, 2019

Some of the memories East Carolina baseball coach Cliff Godwin has about ECU hosting an NCAA regional at Clark-LeClair Stadium last year are the phone conversations in the days leading up to the anticipated event.

It was only the second time the Pirates ever hosted a regional on campus, the first with former Pirate player Godwin as head coach, and Godwin heard from some of his best friends during the week.

One call came from Steve Salargo, who played with Godwin at ECU for coach Keith LeClair in the late 1990s.

“He hadn’t been here since he was drafted in 1999,” Godwin said earlier this week during a moment of reflection. “That is close to 20 years and you have a guy calling me who I haven’t talked to in forever and he says, ‘I’m coming to Greenville, man, because this is awesome.’ I get chill bumps now just telling that story.”

The Pirates have played in 15 regionals since 1998. They have hosted four times — twice in Greenville along with once each in Kinston and Wilson — and also advanced to four super regionals, but never had the breakthrough moment of winning a super regional series to make the eight-team College World Series field in Omaha, Neb.

Since Godwin left his post as a Mississippi assistant coach and took over the ECU program on June 25, 2014, he has talked about the importance of teams hosting regional and super regional games during the NCAA tournament.

ECU did not win the Greenville Regional, beating UNC Wilmington on the first day and then losing to eventual regional champion South Carolina and UNCW on consecutive days, but building on various NCAA experiences is key for the program moving forward. Sixteen teams annually are picked to host regionals and the Pirates were ranked No. 11 already in the preseason by Perfect Game.

More preseason rankings will continue to be released, including the D1baseball.com Top 25 on Monday.

“It was awesome for the community and you were talking about an athletic department and a community that was just yearning for something positive to happen,” Godwin said of the 2018 season, which ended with East Carolina posting a 44-18 record. “The community was unbelievable and you would go to the grocery store or whatever and it was just buzzing and that was on Monday (before the regional began Friday). It’s what people were talking about and it was almost like having a football bowl game on campus.

“I had never done it as a head coach, but had been there and done that at LSU and Ole Miss in college towns, and it was the same feeling. When I ran out there to coach third base for that first game against UNC Wilmington, it was just unbelievable and was for everything that we said we were going to do and work our tails off for four years to get to that moment.”

Momentum from last season carried into recruiting and offseason workouts, although Godwin said his squad is not worried right now about big-picture items or goals. The preseason will officially begin with a first team practice and scrimmage on Jan. 25, and the Pirates’ first game is Feb. 15.

“I think our mentality, after being with the guys for a few days, is where it needs to be and it’s a mentality of just focusing on the process of getting one percent better every day,” Godwin said. “If you look at the most successful organizations and teams, like Clemson football and Alabama football, they never talk about winning.”

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

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