East Carolina University’s baseball team added 17 players to its roster for the 2021-22 season and received two top-50 national rankings for the team's recruitment class.
On Sept. 28, Collegiate Baseball ranked the Pirates' recruitment class No. 26 out of 50. In mid-September, ECU was listed in the Top 35 by Baseball America due to the 17 recruits they brought in for this upcoming season, according to ECUPirates. Teddy Cahil, who covers recruitment for Baseball America, was not surprised by the team's recruitment as they have been “strong” over the years.
“As (head coach Cliff) Godwin and (associate head coach Jeff) Palumbo have been there, they’ve recruited well,” Cahil said. “They’re generally somewhere in between 15-20 sometimes 20-35 in rankings. I think this is a typically strong class for the Pirates. They did a good job about going out there and getting some in the pitching class.”
At the end of the 2020-21 season, the Pirates ended with a 44-17 record and a 20-8 record in the American Athletic Conference. After making it past the Greenville Regionals on June 6, ECU traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, to play Vanderbilt University in the Super Regionals where the season came to an end after two losses.
Before COVID-19, the cap for rosters was 35, but due to COVID-19 each team is able to have additional players on the roster. With recruitment starting as far as three years out, as the coaching staff closed it out they brought on four infielders, two outfielders, two catchers and nine pitchers. With those additions, the team now has 13 freshmen, 19 sophomores, five juniors and five seniors.
“Each year Coach Palumbo and our entire coaching staff work tirelessly to bring in players who are talented enough to help us compete for a national championship, while at the same time being the right fit for our culture,” Godwin said, according to ECUPirates. “We are excited to develop this group into being the best versions of themselves and to help us compete at the highest level on and off the field.”
When the 2020-21 season ended at the Nashville Super Regionals and the Major League Baseball draft began, the Pirates lost three key players to the leagues. Starting pitcher Gavin Williams was drafted at pick No. 23 in the first round by the Cleveland Indians, second and third baseman Connor Norby was taken in the second round at pick 41 to the Baltimore Orioles and first baseman Thomas Francisco was drafted in the nineteenth round at pick 571 by the Peoria Chiefs.
Throughout the recruitment process, the coaching staff looked for players that would fit in with the team and its culture, according to Palumbo, who is also the team's recruitment coordinator. They looked for players that would help fill the places of the ones who were drafted or graduated.
“We didn’t lose that many people so to speak but we lost a high end of production,” Palumbo said. “As a coach you kind of look at it like a little bit of a challenge trying to get the newcomers and the guys that have been in the program prepared to take that next step and show their abilities.”
The 2021-22 season schedule has yet to be announced but has historically begun mid-February. Individual workouts began shortly after classes started for the newcomers and the team on Aug. 23. The team scrimmages every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Clark Le-Clair Stadium.
The annual Purple & Gold World Series will be Nov. 5 to Nov. 7 and specific times will be announced as the event gets closer. Each game is free to the ECU and Greenville community. Palumbo is interested to see what this team will do in the pre-season and how they will continue to prepare each day to be ready for the regular season.
“If they usually fit these three things then they will fit in well here at ECU. It’s pretty simple, it starts with the ability, do we feel like they’re going to bring something to the table to help us win championships,” Palumbo said. “Are they academically committed to their degree and third they just have to be a quality person.”