NEWS, NOTES &
The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, March 30,
By Bethany Bradsher
ECU softball's young bloods
(ECU SID image)
All rights reserved.
Tonight the East Carolina
softball team was supposed to be engaged in a high-stakes, emotional
doubleheader against North Carolina State, the first big in-state rival to
face the Pirates in their new stadium.
Instead, because of
inclement weather, they’ll be getting in whatever practice they can to
prepare for a weekend series at Southern Mississippi.
Extra days of practice
certainly aren’t as glamorous as a showdown with the Lady Wolfpack, but they
are necessary for a team with 10 freshmen on its roster, coach Tracey Kee
With so little
experience, the 25-10 Pirates have already scored some triumphs, like
winning the series against formerly undefeated Conference USA foe Tulsa last
weekend. But every hour on the practice field helps the group solidify its
“With this young group,
any time we can get practice it’s very valuable for us,” said Kee, who is in
her 15th season leading the team. “We’re taking baby steps. We came out, we
won the first game against Memphis and then dropped the next two. We went to
Marshall and we figured out how to win a series on the road. And then
against Tulsa it was figuring out how to win on Sunday.”
When they recruited this
class, Kee and her staff knew they would be losing seven starters, so they
looked for young women who showed not only talent, but the kind of
resiliency and determination that would allow them to contribute right out
of the gate.
Most Division I recruits
get some time to observe and work on their skills as they make the
overwhelming transition to college, but Kee is relying heavily on players
who were still playing out their high school seasons one year ago.
“The youth on this squad,
if you look at the roster, they’re playing key positions,” she said.
“They’re scattered all over the dirt, in the outfield, they are hitting one
through five in our lineup. As the coach, it makes it a little nervewracking
Jordan Lewis and Kristi
Oshiro are two of the newcomers who are proving that a group of mostly
freshmen can still make some noise in Division I softball. Oshiro, who came
to ECU from Mililani, HI, is leading the team in hitting with a 3.40 batting
average. Lewis, who comes from Fremont, Calif., is tied for second with
Suzanne Riggs at .313. Lewis and Oshiro are the top two Lady Pirates in runs
scored, hits, doubles and total bases.
The two represent the
second generation of West Coast softball Pirates. The first group of Hawaii
players graduated last year and will never share a field with this group,
but this year’s three Hawaii freshman were undoubtedly inspired by departed
players like Cristen Aona and Marina Gusman-Brown. Their legacy was
certainly a strong influence in Oshiro’s decision to come such a long way
“I guess just hearing
what they did here, I knew they set the mark really high and they worked
hard and did everything the right way,” Oshiro said. “They set a good
example for us to keep working as hard as they did and be as successful as
Lewis didn’t know any of
the Western players when she committed to ECU, but she knew that the strong
Pacific Coast influence would help her make an easier adjustment. And maybe
because so many of them are several time zones away from their families, the
team has bonded extremely well so far, she said, choosing to spend much of
their time together off the field and learning how to sharpen each other on
Even if she knew that
observers expected them to have a down year because of their young team,
Lewis believes that the Pirates are surpassing expectations because of their
talent and their determination not to waste a day of this experience.
“We could have come in
and not done as well, and people would have said, ‘Oh well, they’re just
freshmen,’” she said. “I think we wanted to come in and show that we’re here
for a reason, we’re just as good everyone else.”
Kee is shifting the
lineup often, both in the field and in the batting order, to determine which
combinations pack the most punch and to keep her players on their toes
during practice. And she embraces any extra practice she can get, even on
the day that was originally reserved for N.C. State.
The Lady Pirates will
play the Wolfpack soon, by the way — the doubleheader was rescheduled for
April 13 at the ECU Softball Stadium.
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