May, which every mother of school-aged children knows is at least twice as hectic as the more hyped December, is the month of awards. Academic awards days, athletic banquets, graduations and every other stripe of ceremony to honor anything from straight A’s to congeniality to perfect attendance.
So as reams of certificates are printed and tassels are turned, it seems like the right time to throw out a few honors to the athletes and coaches of the Pirate Nation. This is the best kind of awards ceremony — no one has to miss work to attend or bring baked goods for the reception afterwards. So in the spirit of the season, I present The ECU Athletics End-of-the-Year Superlatives:
- Most Dependable: Baseball’s Spencer Brickhouse clearly believes that his surname is a self-fulfilling prophecy. He is the only Diamond Buc who has started in every one of the team’s 46 games so far this season, and he leads the team with 177 at-bats. From that workload he has produced 48 hits and 33 runs, nine doubles and seven home runs, placing him second on the squad in all four key categories. His steadiness is one of the key building blocks (okay, bricks) in constructing a commanding postseason presence.
- Most Adaptable: Junior runner Grace Sullivan has broken the school record for two consecutive years in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, an event that requires an athlete to navigate 28 barriers and seven water jumps. Sullivan set the new standard of 10:23.92 at the Virginia Challenge, and in her past two seasons she has finished third and and fourth respectively in the steeplechase at the American Athletic Conference meet. The team travels to conference this weekend in Cincinnati, and Sullivan will brave soaking shoes and solid wooden barriers in an effort to extend her team’s season.
- The Legacy Award: This certificate goes to the Pirate men’s tennis team, which left its mark on program history on April 11 when it notched its 20th win to become the most successful men’s team ever at ECU. The milestone came in a pitched 4-3 battle against a tough College of Charleston team, pulling the team ahead of the 19-5 squad Heinchon coached in 2009. The PIrates finished with a record of 22-5 after losing in the conference quarterfinals to Tulane.
- Most Deserving of a Bright 2019: No group is more worthy of this award than the women’s golf team, which qualified for the NCAA Regional in Austin, Texas, and was felled by an illness that swept through the squad. After shooting 11 over for 12th place after the first round, three of the five Pirate starters were too sick to play in the second round, and two were unable to play in the third round. The Pirates will come home with an official status of DNF (did not finish), regrets about the bad timing of harmful germs and a determination to make a true run for the national finals next year.
- Most Hardware: The men’s and women’s swim teams took home a haul of treasure from February’s American Athletic Conference meet: Twenty total medals, ten of them gold, plus six new varsity records and 15 NCAA B qualifying times. A week after the conference meet, twenty swimmers in 13 events were named to the American all-conference team.
- The Face of the Future: For this award, look no further than freshman softball phenom Erin Poepping, a right-handed pitcher who was the first Pirate selection to the conference all-freshman team in five years. Poepping went 13-15 from the mound in the regular season, striking out 92 batters and compiling an ERA of 3.36. She pitched four complete games, including a 2-1 victory over N.C. State on April 25.
- Bearer of the Highest Expectations: Joe Dooley, with American Freshman-of-the-Year Shawn Williams taking runner-up. The leadership carousel within ECU basketball both highlighted the need for stable guidance and placed the program in a brighter spotlight than it has occupied for several years. Dooley is known as a hard worker and an intense competitor, and he will need to employ both qualities in full force to help engineer the results both he and the Pirate Nation are seeking — a true and enduring national presence for ECU hoops.