It was once again my privilege to serve as the emcee for the annual East Carolina baseball banquet on Saturday night.
Almost 500 people jammed Williams Arena for the festivities. The dinner included speeches from former Pirates P.J. Connelly and Corey Scott. Connelly is now the mayor of Greenville and talked about how baseball got him to where he is today.
Scott told the crowd that he actually quit before his record breaking, 22-save season.
The night also saw each of the 2018 Pirate players introduce himself to the crowd, while the four seniors were allowed to tell their individual stories.
“It was a great night with our fans,” said ECU coach Cliff Godwin. “We can’t have a postseason banquet, because when the season ends everyone pretty much takes off. Some have been drafted; others are heading to play summer baseball. So we want to showcase our program before the season begins.”
East Carolina opens the baseball season this Friday. It’s a three-game series with Western Carolina.
WCU is the alma mater of former Pirate coach Keith LeClair.
“There will always be a tie-in because of that,” said Godwin. “We all know about Keith’s legacy and hosting Western Carolina, we can show that to their program as well.”
Sophomore right-hander Trey Benton will get the opening day start on Friday. Lefty Jake Agnos, also a sophomore, will start on Saturday with junior right-hander Chris Holba slated to go on Sunday.
The Pirates are deep in the pen, with Tyler Smith, Alec Burleson and Gavin Williams also waiting in the wings. They’ll all be available if needed with just one midweek game set for this first week of the regular season.
Baseball in February is like cheating winter. It may not feel like it, but it will certainly give us all a taste of spring as the Pirates open the 2018 baseball season.
Lacrosse opens at ECU
Rarely does one get a chance to watch history.
That was the case this past Saturday as ECU ushered in a brand new sport. Women’s lacrosse made its debut in an 18-7 loss to George Washington.
Several months earlier ECU athletics director Jeff Compher hired Duke assistant Amanda Barnes as the school’s first lacrosse head coach. It was Barnes’ task to build her program from scratch. Her roster has only four non-freshman this season and her team is sure to suffer from growing pains at different times this year.
Game one against George Washington showed some of those early pains. The Pirates hung tough early, but this Colonials team is perennially a top 50 program. Barnes knew that going in but had hoped her young team might be able to ride the emotional wave of making history into an opening day victory.
“It was exhilarating to run out here in front of Pirate Nation for the first time wearing our purple and gold,” Barnes told the media after the game. “I think the girls understand that this is a special opportunity that they had today and we look forward to building from here.”
Saturday’s weather probably cut the crowd in half. Many came out to show their support, despite the drizzling rain to start the game.
“It was a great crowd,” said Barnes. “I really appreciated what Pirate Nation did coming out here today. We had great support from family and friends.”
Lacrosse will become the 22nd sport in the American Athletic Conference in 2019. The six-team league will be comprised of current conference members Cincinnati, Connecticut, Temple and ECU as well as two members from the SEC, Florida and Vanderbilt.
The Pirates are back at home in lacrosse on February 21st when ECU hosts Liberty.