Billy Godwin Talks ECU Legacy

Inside ECU Sports recently conducted an exclusive interview with former East Carolina baseball coach Billy Godwin. Here's what he had to say about his legacy at East Carolina.

Talk about arriving as an assistant coach in June 2005 and being named head coach just a few months later in June.

"I arrived in early June 2005. I was hired as pitching coach and the only assistant coach on the staff at that time. A few weeks later, we hired Scott Forbes as our hitting coach. Scott was with us about 18 days before he decided to go to UNC. I was on the road about every day that summer and our first recruiting class was highlighted by players like Kyle Roller, Devin Harris and Corey Kemp.

I was excited about working with Randy Mazey and we had a good relationship. I was blessed to work with Link Jarrett who came on in late July. Taking over the program in October was a complete surprise, but definitely an opportunity I felt I could handle."

Plenty of Pirates earned high honors under your guidance. Jake Smith earned the Coleman Company-Johnny Bench Award in 2006. Along with Jake, what other players really stood out to you early in your coaching tenure?

Jake had a tremendous year and I was in Wichita with my wife when he won the award. I was very excited for Jake and how he represented our program. We had numerous All-Americans, All-Conference and players named to various watch lists. I always told our players that the hard work they put in to wear the Pirate uniform would pay off and lead to some individual honors. All of these players developed themselves on and off the field. I would definitely leave someone off if I started naming names.

Most players got better because they bought into our blue-collar mentality. Take a look at the guys we recruited that were late draft picks or not drafted and three (or) four years later had the opportunity to play professional baseball. That is the true sign of players were highly developed in our program."

2007-2009 we're great years for the team. The team made it to regionals in each year and a Super Regional in 2009. How important was it for the team and the program to be making such a consistent national impact?

"I felt in 2007-2009 the program got better every year. Our 2009 team made East Carolina's third Super Regional in the 2000's. That was a great team and we had taken the program as far as any other team in East Carolina history (which was) two wins shy of Omaha.

Every player on that team hit .300 that year and we had young but very good pitching staff. We had great leadership from guys like Brandon Henderson, Mike Anderson and Drew Schieber. I always say the key to that team was Stephen Batts and Ryan Wood really matured and had great senior years. Trent Whitehead, a great centerfielder, broke the school record for hits in a single season. Chris Heston came in and went undefeated as our Friday guy. Seth Maness had a great sophomore year and Kevin Brandt was a freshman All-American. In those years we were able to stay away from injuries."

What was it like hosting the Regional in Clark-LeClair in 2009?

"Hosting was special because it was always a program goal and the first time we hosted at Clark-LeClair. The electricity our fans generated was special. Beating South Carolina and advancing to a Super Regional was a highlight of my time at East Carolina."

Talk about the NCAA academic fraud sanctions in 2010.

"I can't discuss the specifics. We were ranked 10th in the country early in the year. This was devastating because I take so much pride into trying to get our players to do the right thing all the time. We had a few kids that made a mistake. We lost some key players but our team was one out away from playing for a conference tournament title that year. I thought this was one of our better coaching jobs."

What was it like to bounce right back the following season with another Regional appearance?

"We bounced back and played in a Regional final at UVA. We played three freshman almost every day that year. I thought we had great leadership from guys like Maness, Anderson, Simmons, Mincey, Homan, and Whitehead. Those guys were determined and did a great job of getting us back in a Regional."

A goal in 2012 was replacing five pitchers. You did all that and more as Andy Smithmeyr and Kevin Brandt were among the nation's best and helped the team to another regional appearance. Talk about that.

"In 2012, we played really well early in the year. We had lost about 70 percent of our innings from the year before. Kevin and Jharel really stepped up for us that year. Players like John Wooten, Jack Reinheimer, Chase McDonald and Tim Younger really lead the charge."

That ended up being your last regional appearance with ECU. Even so, there were plenty of high points in individual performances and big wins, like this season's against UNC, N.C. State and Rice. How do you feel about your final two seasons as coach?

"In 2013, I removed a couple of pitchers for violation of team rules. These guys were key members of our pitching staff. We did not start good. I think at one point we were 17-20 and then we won 6 straight C-USA series. We finished one game out of first place. I was really proud of how our guys bonded together and played well down the stretch.

This year we had three key season-ending injuries. If we had stayed healthy there is no doubt we could have won eight to 10 more games. Losing Travis Watkins early in the year was tough. We lost Ben Fultz about half way through the season and at the time he was leading our team in RBI. Jeff Hoffman was throwing as well as anyone in the country when he went down and missed his last five starts. They were key blows to our team. We had some great wins but the injuries made it tough for us to get on a consistent roll."

With ECU on its way out of Conference USA, what do you think are the most memorable parts of that era since you were here for about half of it?

"We were the only team in Conference USA to win the outright conference regular season title (2009) once Rice joined the league (2006). Conference USA was very good league. Our league was always ranked in the top 5-6 leagues in the country. It has some great programs and coaches. We were always one of the top teams in the league and went to the third-most regionals (5) in my time in the league outside of Rice and Southern Miss."

Talk a little bit about Jeff Hoffman getting drafted ninth overall and what kind of legacy you think he left at ECU.

"Jeff Hoffman could have very well been the No. 1 pick in the country had he not got hurt. Going ninth-overall is a testament to Jeff's ability and the confidence he will return as a power pitcher. Jeff brought a lot of national publicity to East Carolina and the program. I look forward to seeing Jeff pitch in the big leagues and an All-Star came within the next 4 years."

Finally, what kind of legacy do you think you left at ECU?

"I am very proud that I worked with some outstanding coaches and players. Our staff worked as hard as any in the country. Sometimes as a coach you don't know if you reach players when they leave. I had over 40 text messages and calls from former ECU players when I left.

The special part about coaching is relationships and bonds you build with players and coaches. We averaged 37 wins on the field. At the end of fall 2014, 59 of 61 of the players that exhaust eligibility will have graduated. Our multi-year APR was 927 in 2006 and last year it was 984. We went to five regionals, which is almost one-fifth of the Regionals in school history and one of the three Super Regionals.

We built a culture that was built around academics. We were committed to developing young men socially, personally, physically and on the field. We gave our guys opportunities for spiritual growth through Sportsworks Ministries. We were blue-collar, did things the right way and did not look for the quick fix."

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