PirateIllustrated - Pirates Set To Open Greenville Regional vs Norfolk State
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Pirates Set To Open Greenville Regional vs Norfolk State

Carson Whisenhunt set to open on the mound for East Carolina when they take on Norfolk St. on Friday.
Carson Whisenhunt set to open on the mound for East Carolina when they take on Norfolk St. on Friday. (PirateIllustrated.com photo)

ECU(41-15) will host 25-26 Norfolk State who is making their first appearance in the NCAA’s in the Greenville regional opener at 12 noon on Friday.

Connor Norby was named second team All-American and junior Gavin Williams made the first team Collegiate Baseball All-American team, the publication announced Thursday. With their selections, it marks the ninth consecutive year the Pirates have had at least one All-American on their team dating back to 2013.

Carson Whisenhunt is expected to get the Friday start on the mound for the Pirates. Whisenhunt enters at 6-1 with a 3.52 ERA.

“You put yourself in a position to win the regional. When you go on the road just like we did in 2015, we knew Reed Love gave us the best chance to beat Miami,” said ECU head coach Cliff Godwin, “We lost game one against Columbia so Reed had to pitch against FIU and we lost that game. Still that put us in the best chance to possibly win the regional. That’s the discussions that we have had as a coaching staff.”

Getting off to a fast start will help the process for the Pirates moving forward this weekend and Godwin, who while hesitant to address the weather situation, did say his team is motivated to play and he had some brief pregame comments when it comes to weather.

“We’re excited to be hosting our third straight regional. The guys are excited. We just got through with practice,” said Godwin, “Part of it was outside, part of it was inside. Every regional that has been here has not been affected by weather like some people want to say it is. We’ll be ready to go whenever we’re allowed to go with the weather and we’re facing a great opponent in Norfolk State.”

ECU comes in 2-4 in opening games of NCAA regional play. Godwin, who is 2-1 in his time at ECU in regional openers, says his team comes in highly prepared for the task ahead and it will be a stiff challenge to get out of Greenville in one piece and they have to hit the road for Super Regional action.

“I don’t give a damn if we win the first game or not as long as we win the regional. We’ll put our best foot forward tomorrow and we’ll go from there.”

“This team is as battle tested as any team we’ve ever had. Going back to before the conference season started, our guys had to go through injuries. There have been a ton of guys who have missed time. We maneuvered through that and you get through conference and we’re the best team by far on paper,” Godwin stated, “For our guys to have to play four games in three days and 36 innings, to be able to maneuver though that was special. When you say hype, that’s what it is here. There’s pressure, there’s hype and all of that stuff. We haven’t been on social media since Tuesday so we don’t see the hype now.”

The Pirates went through a grueling regular season that consisted of four game weekends throughout the AAC conference season. Godwin talked about where his team is physically as they enter this weekend’s regional.

“We’re in a good spot. I think our guys are as healthy as we can be. Bryson (Worrell) is still a little dinged up from going into the wall, but I’d bet my house that he’ll be able to play tomorrow in some capacity. He doesn’t feel great but he knows he wants to play,” Godwin told PirateIllustrated.com.

Godwin says he hasn’t spent a lot of time scouting Norfolk State yet but will soon and said Norfolk State is a formidable opponent.

“I know the guys have got some real good numbers that we’re going to face,” said Godwin, “Deloach has stolen a lot of bases. They wouldn’t be here if they weren’t a quality opponent so I’ll look more in depth at their pitching this afternoon and tomorrow morning but I know they’re a great team.”

Maryland(28-16) will also be in Greenville making their first appearance in the regionals since 2017 when they take on Charlotte(39-19) who is making their first appearance in ten years.

East Carolina will make its 31st postseason appearance and fifth in the last six years after earning the No. 1 seed in the Greenville Regional in this year’s NCAA Baseball Championships.

ECU, that fell to UCF in the AAC Tournament, has appeared in five super regionals in their baseball history. The Pirates have made no appearances in Omaha for the College World Series in their baseball history.

Ranked in the top 15 for most of the season, the Pirates won virtually all of their series this season with league play comprised of four game weekend series.

American Athletic Conference Player of the Year Connor Norby carried a .424 batting average with 97 hits, 51 RBI’s and 15 home runs this season. Thomas Francisco has also been very hot at the late with a .368 batting average along with 12 home run and 44 RBI’s.

Norby, who had no comment on the potential of weather delays on Friday, did talk about getting back home to the comfortable confines of Clark-LeClair Stadium for this year’s opening week of the NCAA tournament.

“I know I’ve lost some sleep the last few nights just thinking about it. It’s special and to be able to have that again, it’s awesome,” Norby said, “I’m excited to be a part of it again and excited for my teammates who haven’t seen it like Jacob Starling and guys like that. They get to experience it for the first time because it’s seriously the best time of the year. We’ve treated this like any other game week and today was no exception.”

"If we play our game and we play to the best of our ability, there is a good chance we're going to win," Norby told PI, "If we don't, there is a good chance we're going to lose. You can't treat this any differently because this is the regionals. You've got to treat it like any other week."

After being named AAC Pitcher-of-the-Year, Gavin Williams leads the Pirates on the mound with a 10-0 record and 1.32 ERA that led the AAC. Williams struck out 108 batters this season against just 18 walks and said the team should be ready to go on Friday against Norfolk State.

“I would assume that everybody feels good. We have a little chip on our shoulder because we didn’t end the (AAC) tournament the way we wanted to,” Williams told PirateIllustrated.com.

“I know what to expect. I’ve been there so it’s going to be loud. I know everybody is going to be cheering so I’m going to be able to handle my emotions this year better than I did in the past. i tell the guys to just give me one run and I’ll do the rest for them, but I feel like every inning they come in, they’re just going to keep adding runs.”

The Greenville Regional is paired up with the Nashville Regional where the reigning national champs (4)Vanderbilt(40-15) take on Presbyterian(22-21) at 7 pm on Friday. Before that, Indiana St.(22-21) will play Georgia Tech(29-23) at 1 o’clock on Friday.

The 16 regional winners will meet in a super regional action in a best-of-three format with the winners advancing to the College World Series in Omaha.

Game time on Friday between ECU and Norfolk State is slated for high noon on ESPN3.