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UCLA series a postseason glimpse for Pirates

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East Carolina coach Cliff Godwin looks over to players in the home dugout at Clark-LeClair Stadium on March 1.

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Monday, April 15, 2019

East Carolina baseball coach Cliff Godwin heard during the Pirates’ weekend series at No. 1 UCLA that it felt like an NCAA super regional.

The Bruins swept ECU with all three games decided by three runs or less, only strengthening their resume as college baseball’s best team but also providing teaching moments for the American Athletic Conference-leading Pirates (25-10). ECU led 5-2 during the sixth inning of the opening contest and 4-2 in the fourth inning of Game 2, which still left an impression on Godwin on Monday.

“Every pitch was the difference between winning and losing a game, and for sure I felt like that all weekend,” Godwin said from his office on Monday morning. “It’s not like they had an intimidating crowd, but you knew that if you made a bad pitch or weren’t on your ‘A’ game offensively or defensively, then they were going to make you pay for it.

“This will make us better and we are going to learn from it and be better for it. Look at how many teams during their bye weekend during conference (play) have flown across the country and played the No. 1 team in the country for three tight games.”

Michael Toglia had the biggest impact for UCLA (27-6) at the plate, beginning by hitting a game-tying, three-run home run and also the go-ahead double Friday night in a 7-5 win. His three-run homer ended an 8-5 victory in Game 2.

Godwin said Monday that he trusted relievers Sam Lanier and Evan Voliva late in Game 1, and he still feels that way despite Toglia’s big hits because of how well they have pitched against left-handed hitters this season.

Coming into Friday, left-handers were hitting 1-for-17 against Lanier and 1-for-22 versus Voliva.

UCLA’s combination of Game 3 starter Ryan Garcia, who struck out 13 Pirates in seven scoreless innings to pace a 3-0 win, and the Bruins’ bullpen stifled East Carolina during crucial times. The bullpen delivered totals of 11.1 innings with two runs allowed on six hits with 13 strikeouts.

Closer Holden Powell collected two saves to reach 10 for the season.

“Their Sunday starter is the best arm we have faced all year, by far,” Godwin said of Garcia, who improved to 4-0 with a 1.32 ERA. “The difference late in games was that we couldn’t score off their bullpen. It wasn’t like our guys were going up there and throwing away at-bats, but I thought they were competitive at-bats and we just couldn’t find a way to score off of them.”

UCLA’s latest sweep gave it a 9-3 combined record against teams currently ranked in the D1baseball.com Top 25.

The Pirates, who travel to Elon on Tuesday, dropped out of the top 10 in both major polls, checking in at No. 12 in the Baseball America rankings and 13th in the D1baseball Top 25.

Flight cancellations and changes played a part in ECU’s delayed trip from Los Angeles to Greenville, which included two players not scheduled to return until late Monday night.

“It was definitely a challenge, but I thought our guys were in a good mood and they know that we are close to being where UCLA is,” Godwin said. “We played a team that is where we want to be.”

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

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