07/26/12 — Sanderson back at ECU as an assistant coach

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Sanderson back at ECU as an assistant coach

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on July 26, 2012 1:48 PM

Not a spring afternoon drifted by without Ben Sanderson slipping behind his computer and checking baseball scores at his alma mater -- East Carolina.

Now, he'll see the results up close again -- this time as an assistant coach.

The former all-conference performer is returning home to join head coach Billy Godwin and newly-appointed associate head coach Dan Roszel on the Pirates' staff.

"I'm a Pirate at heart," Sanderson said while on a recruiting trip in Atlanta.

"I grew up watching baseball and football games at East Carolina. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to be a Pirate again and I'm looking forward to working with the hitters here, handling the recruiting and working with Coach Godwin.

"All of those things wrapped up into one really made it an easy decision."

Sanderson spent the past four seasons as an assistant at Florida Atlantic University. He worked with the Owls' hitters and outfielders, and played an integral role in recruiting.

FAU boasted three nationally-ranked recruiting classes during Sanderson's tenure, include the 2012 group that received a No. 26 nod by Perfect Game recruiting services. Among them were third baseman Kyle Newton, who was selected in the 19th round by the Colorado Rockies in the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft.

Six players coached by Sanderson have been drafted since 2009.

Sanderson helped the Owls compile a four-year record 131-97 that included two Sun Belt Conference regular-season championships in 2010 and 2012, and an appearance in the 2010 Gainesville (Fla.) Regional. Sanderson mentored eight all-Sun Belt picks and one All-America honoree -- Andy Mee.

"I'm extremely excited to have Ben back with the Pirate family," Godwin said. "His experience as a recruiter, overall baseball knowledge and passion for our program will make this a seamless transition. Ben's energy and enthusiasm is contagious, and having him back in Greenville as a member of our staff will help us to continue to strive for winning championships and make the ultimate trip to the College World Series."

East Carolina finished 36-24-1 this past season and earned a berth in the Chapel Hill Regional. The Pirates have appeared in 12 of the last 14 NCAA tournaments and advanced to three Super Regionals, but they have yet to reach Omaha.

All-Americans and MLB draft picks have been synonymous with every Godwin-coached team.

"East Carolina is a special place with a history of success," said Sanderson, a native of Seven Springs. "I followed them every day (at FAU). There was only one score besides the Sun Belt scores I looked at and that was the ECU score.

"There will be a little bit more responsibility with recruiting, especially in terms of paperwork. Coach Roszel and I will handle the recruiting together.

During his volunteer coaching stint with the Pirates, Sanderson was part of a staff that posted an 82-44 record and garnered a pair of No. 2 NCAA regional seeds. The 2008 team won 42 games, earned the No. 2 seed in the Conway (S.C.) Regional and was ranked as high as No. 21 in the national polls.

That group produced one of the most-productive offensive seasons in Conference USA history and led the league in nine statistical categories.

As a player from 2000-03, Sanderson helped guide the Pirates to their first-ever NCAA national seed and top-10 national ranking in 2001. The 2002 squad won the Conference USA tournament crown.

During his senior year, Sanderson became the first-ever recipient of the honorary No. 23 jersey, which was worn by ECU head coach Keith LeClair, who died from ALS. The number is awarded annually to a deserving player who best displays the hustle, determination and desire that made LeClair a great coach and player.

A passionate Sanderson hopes the knowledge he gained at FAU will help make the goals and vision that Godwin and the Pirate Nation have for the ECU program become a reality.

"There is a high level of passion for the program that fills this place up and gets people here," Sanderson said. "We're on the right track in terms of recruiting, player development, administrative and fan support. We have to have a regular season where we put ourselves in position to host a regional and super regional.

"You have to put yourself in position to give yourself a chance to get to Omaha."