NEWS, NOTES &
The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, February 16,
By Bethany Bradsher
New digs herald new era for
(ECU SID image)
All rights reserved.
has been leading the East Carolina softball team for 15 years, and in that
time she has become accustomed to wearing numerous hats, especially on game
publicity, facilities management, general logistics, Kee has had a hand in
all of it over the years. But suddenly, with a sparkling new stadium that
stands to become the envy of Conference USA, Kee is trying something new —
acting only as the head coach.
“In our old
facility, we didn’t charge, we didn’t have pass lists, we really didn’t deal
with marketing,” Kee said. “And I sat in a meeting today with operations and
all that. It’s just completely different. We don’t have to hang the flags,
we don’t have to do anything. I feel like we’ve arrived.”
from an intense opening weekend at the Red & Black Showcase in Athens, GA,
the Lady Pirates are pumped up about the grand opening of their new home as
they host UNC-Wilmington this afternoon and the Pirate Classic starting
Friday. The young ECU team — the roster has only two seniors and 10 freshmen
— is plenty excited about the games ahead, and probably a little bit
nervous, Kee said. But she expects that after a few innings they’ll shake
the jitters off and focus on the task at hand.
each day our kids got a little more comfortable, a little less edgy, a
little less nervous,” Kee said of their tournament in Georgia, which gave
them a chance to play the Bulldogs while they were ranked 3rdin the nation.
“Whenever you match up with Georgia and you hold them to a 1-0 ballgame,
that gave us a glimpse of what we’re capable of doing.”
ahead starts with the Seahawks, with first pitch scheduled for 4 p.m. today,
and then shifts to the Pirate Classic, which is the first of three
tournaments ECU will host in its new stadium this year. The Classic field
includes St. John’s, Hofstra, Kent State and Virginia, which faces the
Pirates on Friday in the opening game.
There are no
easy matchups this weekend, Kee said, but her youthful team grew up in a
hurry this weekend at another tough tournament hosted by the University of
Georgia. They faced Lipscomb, Illinois State, Iowa, Georgia and Maryland and
came away 2-3. A different opening-season slate might have led to more wins,
but Kee doubts that any other option would have given her team such crucial
have gone to an easier tournament and really padded our stats and given us
false hope about how good we are,” she said. “But I think to match up
against the quality teams that we did, to really hold our own, to me I think
that was more beneficial, going 2-3 than 5-0 against competition that we
could have just walloped. Hopefully, in the long run, it will pay off come
Pirates can safely unpack their suitcases, because they’ll be home for a
while. The Pirate Classic will be followed by a four-day break and then the
Pirate Clash, which features Towson, Fairfield, Lehigh and Campbell.
doesn’t host another tournament until the big one — the Conference USA
Tournament from May 12-14. That will be the first time the Lady Pirates have
ever hosted the league championship.
travel to distract, Kee is placing her immediate focus on shoring up her
team’s offensive output, especially since the Lady Pirates only scored three
runs over five games at the Red & Black Showcase.
some top-notch pitchers, and Kee's rookies will be a work in progress
through the early part of the season as they break into the Division I
world. Once they complete that initiation phase, Kee thinks that they will
hit for a better average than last year’s senior-dominated team.
believe in this offense,” Kee said. “I believe we have a lot of talent in
this offense, and I just think it’s going to take a little bit of time.”
this season brings, Kee and her players will likely always remember it as
the breaking-in party for their shining new stadium, a smaller copy of
Clark-LeClair Stadium nearby.
Kee, an ECU
alum who is starting her 15th year as the Pirates head coach, said that she
and assistant coach Natalie Kozlowski still shake their heads when they
report there for practice. Every item on their wish list — from artificial
turf in the bullpens to roomy dugouts to a padded wall — was fulfilled.
“I would say
when you look at all the bells and whistles they’ve put into this, it’s by
far the best in our state,” Kee said. “I would go so far as to say it’s the
best in our conference. I thought the administration did a great job paying
attention to detail when they put this together.
walked out there for the first time we were flabbergasted. They had kept so
much, even things that we were like, ‘we’ll never get that.’ ”
View from the outfield of the new ECU Softball
Stadium, which will open today when the Lady Pirates host UNC-Wilmington.
(View full image and facts about the facility from ECU Media
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02/16/2011 02:53 AM