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McDonnell: ECU is going to bust through to Omaha

NCAA Louisville East Carolina Baseball

Louisville baseball coach Dan McDonnell, right, talks with East Carolina coach Cliff Godwin after Louisville defeated ECU 12-0 in Saturday in Louisville, Ky., to end the Pirates' season.

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, June 9, 2019

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — It was a difficult postgame exchange between East Carolina fifth-year baseball coach Cliff Godwin and Louisville 13th year coach Dan McDonnell on Saturday afternoon, much like it was difficult on the Pirates during their two NCAA super regional losses to Louisville to end ECU’s season.

But McDonnell had encouraging words for Godwin, and the Cardinals coach had unique insight about ECU baseball that rolled into his portion of the super regional championship postgame news conference.

Louisville is preparing for its fifth trip to Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series, all under McDonnell and beginning with his first year in charge in 2007, and the Pirates were left still trying to find their first path to Omaha. ECU lost 14-1 and 12-0 to Louisville.

ECU has been to 30 NCAA regionals, which is the most among schools that have never made it to Omaha.

“We broke through that first year, and probably didn’t have as much pressure as ECU has right now,” said McDonnell, whose Cardinals won the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season this year and then went 0-2 at the ACC tournament in Durham. “We actually had more pressure in 2013 or ’14. That first year we just kind of caught everybody by surprise, and I learned how well kids can play when they are having fun and you have joy.

“If (ECU) keeps that coach and keeps that staff, that group is going to bust through to Omaha and when they do, look out, because it will be more than once.”

McDonnell added that super regional series can be equally crushing to the eight teams that lose as they are enjoyable for the eight teams that advance to the sport’s biggest and brightest stage.

“As much as it hurts right now, you just have to learn to embrace it and I hope (Godwin’s) fan base and his administration and people understand that it is a tough spot to be in,” McDonnell said. “Eight teams are crushed this weekend.”

The Pirates will lose about one-third of their roster from this team that won 47 games, including a new league record of 20 in the American Athletic Conference. ECU had seven seniors on its roster and five juniors drafted in the Major League Baseball draft.

Some of the upperclassmen, like shortstop Turner Brown and relief pitcher Sam Lanier, were key members of the 2016 team that won Game 1 of a super regional in Lubbock, Texas. That win put East Carolina one more closer to reaching the CWS, but it was host Texas Tech that then parlayed 3-1 (in 13 innings) and 11-0 victories over East Carolina into a trip to Omaha.

Among their five super regional series, the Pirates have never hosted in Greenville at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

“To be in a super regional on the road is always difficult,” Lanier said Saturday. “It was hard then and it’s hard right now. I’m just really proud of the way that this group of guys by my side has performed the last four years or five years.”

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

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