Bonesville: The Authoritative Independent Voice of East Carolina
Daily News & Features from East Carolina, Conference USA and Beyond

Mobile Alpha Roundup Daily Beat Recruiting The Seasons Multimedia Historical Data Pirate Time Machine SportByte™ Weather





Put your ad message in front of 1,000's and 1,000's of Pirate fans. Call 252.637.2944 for flexible options & rates.





The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, February 16, 2011

By Bethany Bradsher

New digs herald new era for ECU softball

By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.

Tracey Kee 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 day.

Marketing, 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.”

Just back 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.

“I think 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.”

The task 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 competitive experience.

“We could 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 May.”

The Lady 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.

Then ECU 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.

With no 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.

They faced 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.

“I still 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.”

Whatever 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.

"When we 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 Relations on

E-mail Bethany Bradsher

Bethany Bradsher Archives

02/16/2011 02:53 AM

©2001-2002-2003-2004-2005-2006-2007-2008-2009-2010-2011-2012-2013 All rights reserved.
Articles, logos, graphics, photos, audio files, video files and other content originated on this site are the proprietary property of
None of the articles, logos, graphics, photos, audio files, video files or other content originated on this site may be reproduced without written permission.
This site is not affiliated with East Carolina University. View's Privacy Policy. Advertising contact: 252-349-3280; Editorial contact:; 252-444-1905.