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View from the 'ville
Thursday, March 6, 2008

By Al Myatt

A time for optimism about ECU sports

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

East Carolina's baseball, basketball and football teams are in the midst of a period characterized by improvement.

The Pirate baseball team ventured into Virginia for a pair of midweek triumphs and will take the momentum of a four-game winning streak into the fifth annual Keith LeClair Classic. ECU (5-4) plays Pittsburgh at 5 p.m. on Friday.

Mack McCarthy's basketball team has seemingly resurrected itself after a 91-62 loss at Texas-El Paso on Feb. 23. A 75-68 victory at Rice on Wednesday night gave the Pirates a three-game winning streak. It was ECU's first Conference USA road win since Feb. 16, 2005, when the Pirates topped UAB, 67-64.

ECU athletic director Terry Holland recently canvassed a gathering of influential Pirate Club members in regards to their thoughts about the job performance of the interim ECU coach and McCarthy received a favorable endorsement from the group.

Spring football practice is a time devoted to improvement and the Pirates certainly will need to be at their best to equal the challenge of the recently-announced 2008 football schedule.

ECU had its first spring session in pads on Wednesday.

Breaking in young hurlers

East Carolina baseball coach Billy Godwin has given a lot of new pitchers opportunities early in the season. Freshman right-hander Brad Mincey from New Hanover responded well on Wednesday as he pitched 7 1/3 innings in relief and earned the decision as ECU topped host Virginia Commonwealth 7-4 at The Diamond in Richmond.

Mincey retired 12 straight Rams at one point. He allowed just two hits, had four strikeouts and walked just one. The Pirates trailed 4-1 before rallying in the fifth inning to go ahead 5-4.

Trent Whitehead, a freshman from Washington, NC, had his first hit on the college level to start the inning.

Harrison Eldridge had a run-scoring triple for ECU in a two-run sixth. That was enough run support for Mincey as the Rams were scoreless after getting four runs in the first off Pirates starter Matt Cox, a transfer from North Carolina. Freshman Zach Cooper from Jacksonville White Oak held VCU for an inning before Godwin brought Mincey to the mound.

The LeClair Classic, which honors the former Pirate coach who died from Lou Gehrig's disease, will be the beginning of 13 consecutive home games for ECU. The Pirates are scheduled to face Michigan at 3 p.m. on Saturday and Georgia Southern at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Included in the upcoming homestand will be ECU's opening series in Conference USA against Houston on March 21-23.

Pitt (3-3) features sophomore outfielder Jordan Herr, who is hitting a team high .438. He is the son of former major league All-Star Tommy Herr.

Senior outfielder Sean Conley of the Panthers was named Big East player of the week after going 6-for-12 in a series with Maryland-Eastern Shore. Senior left-hander Brian Chrisman, a transfer from Marshall, is 2-0 for Pitt with a 2.31 earned run average and 16 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings.

Michigan (4-3) is ranked No. 15 by Baseball America. The Wolverines outhit the New York Mets 11-7 in an exhibition game on Feb. 26 and played the National League club to a 4-4 tie.

Georgia Southern head coach Rodney Hennon and assistant coaches Mike Tidick and Jason Beverlin all played for LeClair when he was the coach at Western Carolina. The Eagles are 4-5 coming into Greenville.

Tough grid slate on horizon

Fan support should be substantial when ECU opens its season in Charlotte on Aug. 30 against Virginia Tech. The Pirates will play West Virginia the following week in Greenville.

The non-conference schedule, which also includes games at N.C. State on Sept. 20 and at Virginia on Oct. 11, gives ECU the opportunity to gain national attention. The games with the Hokies and Mountaineers will be shown on one of the ESPN networks.

"Needless to say, we're all excited to play our out-of-conference schedule," said Pirates football coach Skip Holtz in a university release. "I know all of us embrace the challenge of moving this program forward and (athletic director) Terry Holland has continued to provide us with that opportunity."

Holtz, whose 2007 club went 8-5 with a win in the Hawaii Bowl over Boise State, said he was impressed with the work ethic and enthusiasm thus far in spring ball.

A number of seniors from the 2007 team worked out for pro scouts on Wednesday. Star running back Chris Johnson did not participate but is expected to make himself available for evaluations in Greenville later this month, according to ECU sports information.

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03/06/2008 06:30:48 PM


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