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Versatile Burleson ready for Year 2

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East Carolina's Alec Burleson takes a swing during a preseason scrimmage on Jan. 25, 2019. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The breakthrough moment for Alec Burleson as a hitter and pitcher happened early in the 2018 season, when he was a freshman and served as East Carolina baseball’s starting pitcher against Campbell along with going 0-for-2 with a walk as a batter in the same game.

It was the Pirates’ fourth game of the season, and by the end of the campaign, he was solidified in the weekend rotation as a pitcher. Burleson also made 27 starts in the batting order, finishing with 18 RBIs and 13 runs scored.

The left-hander from East Lincoln High School said during media day Monday he feels much more comfortable in preparation for this season and is aiming to reach his full potential as a pitcher and at the plate.

“Me and coach (Cliff) Godwin have talked about it a lot, and the goal is for me to pitch and hit for myself,” he said.

That role will likely come to fruition during ECU’s opening weekend series against Radford, possibly with Burleson serving as the Pirates’ first starting pitcher of the season Feb. 15.

Other candidates for the top starting pitcher spot include Jake Agnos and Trey Benton.

For now, Burleson manages practice time to routinely work with Godwin, pitching coach Dan Roszel and infield coach Jeff Palumbo.

“It’s not easy and it’s a credit to Alec, because Alec is the one who is doing the work and working on both sides,” said Palumbo, who also serves as the Pirates’ recruiting coordinator and baserunning coach. “He really has embraced it. I think the difference between being a freshman and a sophomore is just knowing what to expect and knowing how to get himself prepared for the spring.

“He just has a much clearer picture of what he has to do to get his work accomplished. ... It’s been a nice balance.”

Burleson finished his rookie campaign with 5-2 record, four saves and 3.33 ERA. He made 19 appearances on the mound, earning eight starts and the American Athletic Conference rookie pitcher of the year award.

Among the freshmen looking to follow Burleson’s two-way lead this year are infielders Ryder Giles and Connor Norby. Two of ECU’s seven seniors are starting shortstop Turner Brown and second baseman Brady Lloyd, but Godwin has already mentioned that some rookies are poised to provide depth in the infield and outfield.

“(Giles will) definitely see the field at shortstop, second and third, but he can also pitch a little bit for us,” Godwin said of the right-handed in-state product from Union Pines High. “He can really play defense and has gotten stronger and swings the bat well.”

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

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