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Worrell ready to work in the outfield

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East Carolina's Bryson Worrell makes a catch in the outfield during a game at Clark-LeClair Stadium against Wofford on April 4, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Bryson Worrell was recruited by East Carolina baseball mainly as a catcher, but Worrell’s first semester at ECU included him experimenting elsewhere in the infield.

With ECU’s season opener less than a week away, Worrell is ready to be a center fielder for the preseason No. 11-ranked Pirates during opening weekend. In fact, he might be the first player to run out of the home dugout at Clark-LeClair Stadium and start in center Friday versus Radford.

Worrell, who went to Hunt High School in Wilson, has plenty of power in his bat, and he described himself as an offensive outfielder. Six of his 10 hits went for extra bases as a freshman in 2018 — four doubles, one triple and a home run — but he also has upped his attention to defense since emerging around the midway point of last year.

“I’m definitely ready. A lot of guys have helped me prepare for it,” Worrell, a switch hitter, said of his likely increased role from when he totaled 39 at-bats and made four starts as a freshman. “I feel a lot more comfortable out there. Some of the older guys last year, and especially (then-senior) Andrew Henrickson, he helped me out a lot in the outfield. He got me a lot better with the communication side.”

Left fielder Bryant Packard, who was recently named to the preseason Golden Spikes Award watch list, is the No. 1 mainstay for the Pirates in the outfield and atop the team’s batting order. The proven veteran is capable of playing all three OF positions along with being an option at designated hitter and maybe first base.

Junior college transfer Christian Smallwood has worked mainly in right field, and senior big lefty swinger Christian Jenkins best fits in one of the two corner outfield spots. Dusty Baker is a quick and natural center fielder already with 42 career starts.

The group of freshmen includes multi-talented Christian Jayne, a former Terry Sanford High football quarterback who came to East Carolina after being drafted in the 27th round of the MLB draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks, and lefty Lane Hoover.

Pirate fifth-year coach Cliff Godwin lauded Hoover for his defensive prowess and versatility in the outfield.

“I really like our outfield depth,” Godwin said. “You could be really offensive and if we wanted to, it could be Packard, Jenkins and Smallwood out there. Then it could be really defensive, not that these guys are bad offensive players, with any combination of Bryson, Dusty, Lane and Christian Jayne. When those guys are out there, it’s as good as any outfield, defensively, in the country, in my opinion.”

Worrell’s 2018 season included three RBIs in a game against Maryland. In all, he drew seven walks and struck out 10 times.

He is still listed on ECU’s roster as a utility player, although he is certainly in the mix at center field.

Godwin said part of the optimism for Worrell with the Pirates this season is based on his improved work ethic.

“He is a much different player this year,” Godwin said. “He’s more physical and his work ethic has changed. He is at the upper echelon on our team with work ethic, where last year it was probably at the bottom.”

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

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