GREENVILLE – Some senior members of the East Carolina baseball team felt partly responsible for the news coming out of campus Monday.
Coach Billy Godwin’s contract was not renewed, ending a year of uncertainty for the coach and his players, namely veterans who felt they bore some of the responsibility in the Pirates’ failure to reach the NCAA postseason each of the past two years.
ECU director of athletics Jeff Compher announced Monday he was making a change.
“I feel like the heat sometimes should come down on the players more to play better,” senior infielder/closer Drew Reynolds said. “Ultimately, coaches put in all the work and effort to try to get us ready to play, but they’re never the ones to go out there and throw a ball or hit a ball.”
Senior pitcher Ryan Williams said Godwin sent a message to players Monday to tell them the news and that he hoped to meet with them individually at a later date. For Williams and other players, Godwin’s contract was not necessarily a factor but was an underlying theme to the season nonetheless.
“We all knew the situation, but really once you get on the field it clears out of your head and our job when we’re out there,” said Williams, who won 11 decisions for the Pirates this season. “So it didn’t really take a toll on us, but we were just kind of aware of the situation.”
There seemingly was a unified feeling among former players that they experienced substantial growth in Godwin’s program.
One of the more successful players of the coach’s era, St. Louis Cardinals’ Seth Maness, said in a text message that Godwin contributed to his time in Greenville being “the best four years of my life.
“A lot of credit goes to coach Godwin and his staff for giving me an opportunity to play there,” Maness said. “Coach Godwin is an incredible coach and more importantly a better man. I’m very fortunate to have been able to play for ECU under coach Godwin and I’m sure wherever the road takes him, he will have success.”
Reynolds said he’s indebted to Godwin for making him grow up fast.
“He taught me so much about baseball, and even more things outside of baseball,” Reynolds said. “He taught me how to grow up and become a man and how to handle certain situations. That’s stuff I’ll appreciate later on down the road. You can’t say enough about the time and effort he put in to each and every player.”
While Reynolds was recruited out of high school and played all four seasons with Godwin and the Pirates, short-term players also felt the impact.
“Having an opportunity to play for him and the rest of the coaching staff at ECU, I wouldn’t give it up for anything,” Williams said. “I just wish I would’ve had the chance to play for him all four years of my college career.”
Despite excelling on the mound in different roles throughout his two-year Pirates career, Williams didn’t experience playing in an NCAA regional. He said he understands how difficult it can be to consistently make postseason appearances.
“There’s teams that have great years one year and then the next year they have a down year,” he said. “It’s a different brand of baseball in college right now, and finding that exact reason why is not something you can really pinpoint.”