GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Jacob Jenkins-Cowart knew he wanted the chance to play baseball in front of thousands of fans; it’s one of the main factors that drew him to East Carolina.

But perhaps nothing could have prepared him for his first appearance at Clark-LeClair Stadium as a true freshman last season.

“My first pinch-hit appearance Friday night to open the year last year — scary,” Jenkins-Cowart said with a smile during ECU’s media day Monday. “It was a pitching change, right, and I’m standing there beside the plate, it only took a minute for the pitching change but it felt like an hour. I’m just looking around, ‘Where’s my mom,’ stuff like that.

“It’s exciting,” he added. “You really feel like you’re playing with more than just your teammates. You’ve got the crowd behind you. They’re part of the game, definitely.”

The Greensboro native and Southeast Guilford graduate got settled in quickly. He started 62 of the 64 games he played in, playing mostly right field with some designated hitter duties mixed in. He led the team with 65 RBIs to go along with 44 runs scored, 10 doubles, 13 home runs, 16 walks and six stolen bases. His .330 batting average ranked third on the team.

He was named the most outstanding player of the 2022 American Athletic Conference Championship and earned a spot on the all-tournament team. Jenkins-Cowart was also named to the NCAA Greenville All-Regional Team and was named a Freshman All-American.

More recently, Jenkins-Cowart landed a spot on the Preseason All-AAC Team.

The Pirates are looking to use Jenkins-Cowart in center field this season. The sophomore discussed that transition Monday.

“It’s definitely a little bit more responsibility, being the captain of the outfield,” he said. “Last year Bryson (Worrell) did a really good job. Really, I think it’s easier. You can read the swing easier. You can read the ball off the bat better. It’s just about helping out corner outfielders as well.”

In preparing for the new season and his new outfield role, Jenkins-Cowart said he’s been focusing on improving his speed and arm accuracy.

Senior left fielder Lane Hoover said he and Jenkins-Cowart practice together every day, and their communication is “very good.”

“Bryson was great last year,” Hoover said. “He was the man. JC, JC is very good. He’s outgoing, outspoken and he’s very loud, so I feel like our communication will be pretty good, just as well as it was with Bryson last year.”

Jenkins-Cowart has certainly come a long way from that first pinch-hit appearance last season. He brings a high level of energy which is evident in the way he carries himself on the field, particularly when celebrating a big play.

“I don’t understand how people don’t show emotion,” he said. “It’s really adrenaline for me. I try to get the crowd into it too. … We like to put on a show. It’s more about baseball and winning than putting on a show, but fan interactions and stuff like that, it really gets everybody going, especially me.”