Head coach Cliff Godwin and the ECU baseball team continued to build its 2023 recruiting class on Thursday, picking up a commitment from East Lincoln High School infielder Isaac Armstrong. […]
Head coach Cliff Godwin and the ECU baseball team continued to build its 2023 recruiting class on Thursday, picking up a commitment from East Lincoln High School infielder Isaac Armstrong. The Denver, North Carolina native has been on the Pirates’ radar for a while now as he attends the same high school as former ECU stand out and current St. Louis Cardinal Alec Burleson.
“ECU was at the top of my list from the beginning of my recruiting process,” Armstrong said. “I started talking to them in my freshman high school season and I talked to them throughout the summer. I just received an offer earlier this week and it was the right decision for me and my family to take it. It was always at the top of my list, so we were very excited to accept and become a Pirate.”
Armstrong echoed the same sentiment about ECU’s coaching staff and culture that other recruits have expressed in the past, but he had an extra resource at his disposal to gain additional information about the program.
Over the summer, Armstrong worked out with Burleson and picked up advice from the All-American on a range of topics, including how to succeed as a two-way player in college. Armstrong also heard much about expectations inside Godwin’s program and the atmosphere he can expect from the jungle and fanbase.
“Learning about his experiences and he telling me the ins and outs — he’s a great resource, very smart baseball guy, very smart guy in general and just a good guy,” Armstrong said. “He’ll tell the truth, the good things and the bad things, if there were any. He told me about the culture at East Carolina, what the things are that coach Godwin would expect. It helped me make my decision that much easier.”
Listed at 5’11”, 165 pounds, Armstrong is, by his own admission, not the most physically imposing player on the field at any given time. To perhaps make up for that, Armstrong has worked hard to make himself the best all-around player he can be, both in the field and at the plate.
With the Pirates, having solid fundamentals are a huge key to finding playing time. That means getting a bunt down when the call comes from the dugout, running the bases the proper way and limiting mistakes with the bat and glove. Armstrong has been taught some of those same things by his high school and travel ball coaches, giving him an extra layer of preparation for the collegiate level.
Even so, just watching a little bit of video on Armstrong reveals he is stronger than his frame suggests and can rocket baseballs all over the diamond from the right side of the plate. Where does that strength come from? Well, Armstrong has an ace up his sleeve.
“I have pretty good genes,” Armstrong said. “My dad was actually a collegiate bodybuilder, so he’s definitely a huge help to me in the weight room. My mom is actually very strong, too. But, there’s no substitute for just getting in the gym and taking a lot of swings and working hard. I’m not the most physically imposing player — I’m not a 6’4” monster — but I feel like I have a good base and that my swing is strong enough to compete with anyone.”
That swing, Armstrong said, has been loosely modeled after Yankee great Derek Jeter who possessed the all-fields approach the Pirate commit wants to have in the batter’s box.
“I don’t want to have a hot zone and a cold zone, I want my whole zone to be red,” Armstrong said. “I don’t want to think of myself as having any weaknesses at the plate. I feel like Derek Jeter was that guy that was well-rounded, so he’s been a player that I’ve tried to mold my swing after a little bit.”
Playing with different travel teams around the area, Armstrong has moved a bit around the diamond from a defensive standpoint. Some second base, some third base has been mixed in, but Armstrong loves the shortstop position and looks to have the arm to stick there into college.
Armstrong’s double-play combo with the South Charlotte Panthers, Kenan Bowman, also figures to stick with him through college as the pair are both Pirate commits. Bowman was ECU’s first 2023 commitment back in July, and the duo has already been talking about playing together in college.
“We’re starting to build chemistry early,” Armstrong said. “We’ve been playing together since we were very young. Me and him have developed a bond and now we get to continue it through college, which is very exciting.”
Armstrong has been competing in travel ball tournaments and showcases this summer after he was limited to just four high school games during his freshman season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While those games often take place without many fans in the stands, they are still providing experience and an opportunity for growth to Armstrong.
Throughout this entire process, Armstrong said his parents have been his biggest inspiration and he is grateful for the support and guidance they have provided.
“They want to see me go as far as I can go and I love doing it,” Armstrong said. “I made a deal with my parents. They would continue to work hard to help me get to the places I want to go as long as I keep working hard and keep trying to achieve my goals. I plan on doing that along the way.”
An aspiring business major at ECU, Armstrong still has the better part of his high school career left in front of him. In the more than two years until his graduation, the biggest thing he wants to work on is preparing himself for the increased competition level and intensity he will find at the collegiate level.
That is yet another area that Burleson has provided insight into, and Armstrong wants to follow in his footsteps of being over-prepared when he steps on campus.
“One thing about Alec Burleson is I feel like he was very over-prepared when it comes to college,” Armstrong said. “He was a big league player playing against other college players. That’s kind of the level I would like to get to. I would like to be well over-prepared before I get to college, and when I get there, I want to be an immediate helper to the team.”