2019 Preseason Top 25 Preview: No. 12 East Carolina
Last Year: 44-18 (14-10 American); reached regionals.
Final Ranking: No. 23.
Head Coach (record at school): Cliff Godwin (154-90-1, four years)
Top 100 Draft Prospects: OF Bryant Packard (No. 59), 1B Spencer Brickhouse (No. 100).
The Good News: This is a team flush with veterans. The Pirates' projected starting lineup as it stands now features three seniors, four juniors (one a redshirt), and two sophomores—both of whom appeared in 31 or more games last season. It’s the same story on the mound. With sophomore Alec Burleson and juniors Tyler Smith, Trey Benton, and Jake Agnos all returning, they have more proven starting pitchers than they have spots in the weekend rotation. And assuming one of Benton or Agnos slides into a role in relief, as they’ve both done in the past, ECU will run at least five deep in the bullpen with experienced options.
The Bad News: Davis Kirkpatrick, the 2018 team’s most effective reliever, and Chris Holba, last season’s innings leader and arguably the team’s most effective starting pitcher, are gone. There are plenty of options for Godwin and his staff to fill these roles, especially with the aforementioned veterans back in the fold, but that pair was so good a season ago that it’s tough ask to have anyone completely replace their production.
Player To Know: Bryant Packard, OF.
As the reigning American Athletic Conference player of the year, Packard is the obvious choice here. A season ago, he hit .406/.462/.671 with 16 doubles, 14 home runs and 50 RBIs. With six stolen bases in eight attempts, he’s also a more effective baserunner than you might assume given his stature and power production. With a veteran lineup around him providing plenty of protection, you have to assume it will be another big year for the Pirates’ slugger.
Path To Omaha: Does ECU have someone who can emerge as a staff ace capable of shutting down just about any offense in the country? Pitchers like Burleson, Smith and Benton have all been very solid, but in the postseason, you want to have a guy who can put the team on his back and carry you to victory in a regional or super regional. Depth is vitally important, particularly in the regular season, but workhorse pitchers can go a long way toward getting you to Omaha once you’re in the postseason. Finding a pitcher that fits that description will be key for East Carolina to reach the College World Series for the first time in program history.
2019 NCAA Baseball Tournament: Greenville Regional Preview
Previewing East Carolina, NC State, Campbell and Quinnipiac including draft prospects and tournament outlooks.