Diamond Bucs Hoping to Bounce Back

East Carolina (28-21, 13-11 Conference USA) hopes to bounce back on its weekend trip at Southern Miss (28-21, 15-9 C-USA).

East Carolina (28-21, 13-11 Conference USA) is hoping to bounce back in Hattiesburg, Miss. against Southern Miss (28-21, 15-9 C-USA) this weekend. After this weekend, the Pirates only have a midweek game versus High Point and a final conference series against UTSA next weekend.

In that stretch, the Diamond Bucs are looking to rebound from what has been a terrible week. Not too long ago, they swept North Carolina for the first time in two decades and had a conference series win over Florida Atlantic sandwiched in there.

Last weekend, ECU was swept by Florida International. Just a few days later, head coach Billy Godwin announced that star pitcher Jeff Hoffman is to miss the remainder of the season due to Tommy John surgery. Because of that, Godwin is forced to make some changes to the pitching rotation.

"We're going to change it up," said Godwin. "We're going to throw (Reid) Love on Friday, (Tyler) Bolton on Saturday, move (Brett) Mabry back to the bullpen and do (David) Lucroy on Sunday."

Love, Bolton and Lucroy won't be in over their heads. The Golden Eagles don't have a single player batting over the .300 mark. Matt Durst, who leads the team with a .291 batting average, will likely be the biggest threat at the plate. He leads the team in with five home runs and 34 RBI. Mason Robbins and Tim Lynch combine for 58 RBI, so they will be threats when Southern Miss is in scoring position.

Lucroy had a rough start to the season, but proved last weekend he belonged in the open spot in the weekend rotation. He did everything he could to give the Pirates a chance to take a win in the series with his performance in Game 3. In eight innings, he gave up two runs (both earned) on three hits and fanned four batters.

The problem was a lack of run support. ECU had been able to get away with wins in close games up until Sunday's 2-1 loss in the series finale versus FIU. In the five games prior to last weekend's series, four were decided by one run and the fifth was decided by two.

"I'm just trying to stay in my approach," said Drew Reynolds, who is the team's second-best batter with a .328 average. "(Batting) coach (Ben) Sanderson preaches all year long the type of approach we should have in the different games facing the different pitchers. I'm trying to stay in that approach and not try to do too much and get good swings. Ultimately, once it leaves your bat, that's all you can control."

The entire team has made it an objective to give the pitchers more run support, especially without Hoffman.

"It started with our preparation (Wednesday)," said Reynolds after Wednesday's practice. "We came out here and we got a good practice in. We tried to improve, we tried to get better. Ultimately, you know you're only as good as your next pitch or your next swing and your next game. We're just fighting to improve on some of the things we saw we could improve on this weekend. We look to play our best baseball this weekend."

Even without Hoffman, there's still a lot to be confident in. It hasn't been long since Love's complete-game shutout versus UNC and Williams has been one of the team's most consistent performers.

"We've got a good pitching staff," said Godwin. "Does it help us in the confidence? No, I would be a lot more confident if I had (Hoffman) out there. But, at the same time, we've been going a couple of weeks (without him). I was really proud of the first week. We went down and got two out of three at FAU. Our guys are resilient. They believe in themselves. These guys stepping in and filling the void are really good pitchers. They're going to give us a chance to win every game."

With only seven games between them and the C-USA tournament, the Pirates are looking to bounce back and build as much momentum as possible heading into the postseason. Friday's evening game is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday's games are afternoon games slated for 3 p.m. and noon, respectively.

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