The past year or so hasn’t been easy on East Carolina or its fans.
With the football team suffering through a second straight 3-9 season, setting records for defensive futility along the way, a basketball squad playing out the string under an interim coach and an injury-riddled baseball team that fell far short of expectations in 2017, wins have been in short supply all the way around.
As has reason for hope.
But if the events of this weekend are any indication, just maybe it’s time that the Pirates’ fortunes start to take a turn for the better. If nothing else, the developments at least gave some long-suffering fans something to cheer and feel good about for a change.
It started on Friday with a big second inning that led to an opening night victory by coach Cliff Godwin’s baseball team, the first act in a three-game sweep of Western Carolina that got the season off to a fast start.
On Saturday, ECU’s newly created women’s lacrosse team scored the first win in program history by rallying for a 15-14 overtime victory secured on a goal by freshman Megan Pallozzi just 40 seconds into the extra period.
And while the basketball team wasn’t able to provide an exclamation point on Sunday, falling just short after leading most of the game against Connecticut, a pair of underclassmen continued to emerge as potential foundations upon which whoever is hired to coach the team next season can start to build.
Junior Isaac Fleming posted his second triple-double of the season with 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists while redshirt freshman Shawn Williams set himself up to win another AAC Rookie of the Week award by hitting seven 3-pointers on his way to a 26-point performance.
Their contributions, however, are only part of the reason why the basketball team has distinguished itself over its past few games.
These Pirates have had every reason to mail in the remainder of their season after their original coach, Jeff Lebo, quit on them back in November and they suffered a series of lopsided defeats to AAC heavyweights Wichita State, Cincinnati and Houston once the conference schedule began.
Instead, the Pirates have continued to give an honest day’s effort every time they’ve stepped onto the floor for interim coach Michael Perry.
Despite being undermanned, undersized and undertalented in comparison to most of the teams it plays, ECU has managed to go 2-2 in its last four games, with the wins coming in overtime against Memphis and on the road last Wednesday at Tulane.
Those recent results won’t be the springboard to a winning record or help Perry get the job on a permanent basis, but they are significant nonetheless because of the statement they make about the pride the remaining team members have for the name on the front of their jerseys.
There was more than just pride swirling around the home dugout at Clark-LeClair Stadium for the Pirates’ opening baseball weekend. There was also palpable determination to put their disappointing 2017 campaign behind them and begin the process of earning another trip to the NCAA tournament.
Although the competition was notably a step down from last year’s opening series, a three-game sweep at the hands of Ole Miss that set an ominous tone for the season, ECU got off to a more promising start with three straight wins against Western Carolina.
Even more encouraging than the victories themselves were the elements that helped bring them about — strong starting pitching from Trey Benton and Chris Holba, a deep, dominant bullpen and a balanced offensive performance highlighted by a pair of home runs and six RBIs from cleanup man Spencer Brickhouse, along with a breakout debut performance from newcomer Connor Linton.
Sure it’s only a start and there are much more challenging tests to come, beginning with next weekend’s three-game series against in-state rival North Carolina. But after the disappointments of the past year or so, it’s nice to have something to cheer and be optimistic about for a change.
And who knows?
Maybe with all the positive mojo floating around from the successful weekend, there might even be a little left over for coach Scottie Montgomery and his football team, which begins its spring practice today.