ECU News, Notes and Commentary
Thursday, June 2, 2005
By Bethany Bradsher
Spirited road warriors take
Tempe in stride
in the room under the grandstands at Clark LeClair Stadium Monday were all
of the elements of great drama: dozens of anxious Pirates, a large screen
television and a boatload of uncertainty.
like Brian Cavanaugh, who sat on the floor in front of his teammates, didn’t
even dare to guess whether they had played their last college baseball game.
Cavanaugh didn’t look for clues.
ESPN NCAA baseball selection show got underway, he mentally checked off the
regions that seemed the most likely hosts for East Carolina. The Clemson
region popped up on the screen, and was filled with four other teams.
Likewise, Georgia Tech and Tennessee were soon eliminated as Pirate
Cavanaugh glanced back and saw Coach Randy Mazey. He was wearing his poker
face. And the ESPN announcers had revealed three-fourths of the 16 regions.
Cavanaugh stayed glued to the screen.
going to lie, I was scared,” said Cavanaugh, who is leading Conference USA
in batting with a .379 average. “I was real scared. I saw Georgia Tech pass
by us, I saw Clemson pass by — I was like, man. I saw Coach Mazey walk in
and he didn’t look too happy. I thought maybe he knew something we didn’t.”
But as it
turned out, Mazey knew exactly as little as his players, and with the
introduction of the Tempe region they all got their wish — an extension of
the season that has been marked with dogged perseverance in the midst of
as I heard East Carolina, I didn’t even wait for them to show it on the
board,” Cavanaugh said. “As soon as I heard it, I was so jacked. I was just
yelling. I was shaking watching that thing. I’m so eager to get out there.
I’m ready to go right now.”
were invited to a similar gathering last May, but there was minimal
suspense. With a 51-13 record, the 2004 squad was assured of an NCAA bid.
The party to watch the selection show was just that — a celebration.
Mazey mused Monday — after the TV was turned off and the players had
dispersed to pack for an impromptu West Coast trip — the announcement came
the only way it could have for this group that is accustomed to earning
every victory the hard way.
this season’s gone, that was just perfect, the way the show went,” he said.
“It gave us just a little bit more adversity to go through.”
24 hours after that Memorial Day lunch gathering, the Pirates left
Greenville for points West, arriving in Tempe before any other team but the
host Sun Devils. They went out to eat and shopped Tuesday night and
practiced for two hours Wednesday morning, said Rob Dunning of ECU sports
arrived in Arizona in plenty of time to get acclimated to the dry heat and
the three-hour time difference. But Mazey and the players expressed no
reservations about the effects of traveling 2,300 miles to play in the
regional, which will pit them against Arizona State Friday night and
potentially Coastal Carolina and UNLV later in the weekend.
game will be broadcast locally on 1070 AM and 1250 AM at 10 p.m. Eastern
capturing the regional, ECU
officials confirmed Wednesday, the Pirates would satisfy part of the
equation for having a chance to play the next round before a home crowd. If
ECU wins in Tempe and defending national champion Cal State Fullerton loses
in its regional, ECU is expected to be chosen as host for the Super
Regional, sports information director Tom McClellan said.
defeated ECU 10-3 in March at the
Keith LeClair Classic, is 34-22 overall and 15-9 in the PAC-10. The Sun
Devils come to the regional after having won four straight games, including
a three-game sweep of Washington State.
the advantages of playing in Conference USA, Mazey said, are the frequency
and distances involved in the Pirates' travel schedule. In contrast, a team
like top-seeded Coastal Carolina has competed much closer to home, he said.
like we’re always in the air or on the bus, so it’s just another weekend for
us,” Mazey said.
third baseman Mark Minicozzi echoed Mazey’s relaxed attitude toward
cross-country travel. As ECU prepares for its seventh NCAA Regional in as
many years, this is a team that is not intimidated by higher-ranked
opponents or distant venues.
we made the trip to Tempe, and it was one of the best trips we’ve ever
made,” Minicozzi said. “Everyone’s excited — it doesn’t matter where. We
could have gone to China and we’d be happy to go.”
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