NEWS, NOTES &
Friday, March 16, 2007
By Bethany Bradsher
Painful February stumble galvanized Pirates
By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.
They may be rubbing shoulders with the big names
in college baseball now, but the turning point of East Carolina's early
season came after a shutout loss to Campbell.
It was in the wake of that 2-0 defeat on their
home field on Feb. 21 that the seniors organized a team meeting. On the
agenda? Rediscovering their drive and setting a new course for the remainder
of the schedule.
The meeting was held behind closed doors, but
the unified team that emerged has made itself known throughout the college
After starting out with a 2-5 record, the
Campbell loss and the subsequent revival led the Diamond Bucs to victories
against schools like Duke and Pepperdine and sweeps of Cal State-Fullerton
and Radford for a record of 13-6. This week the Pirates inched into the
rankings at No. 25, and College Baseball Insider named ECU its team of the
week for the week of March 5-11.
“We definitely knew that, when we lost to
Campbell, that was kind of a wakeup call,” said junior outfielder Harrison
Eldridge. “We needed to come together. We kind of just sat down in the
locker room and said, we’re going to start over. We’re 0-0 right now. We’re
not going to think about what happened in our first seven games, because
that’s not East Carolina baseball. We knew we were better than that.”
The resulting boost in confidence not only led
to an 11-1 streak since that meeting, it has given the Pirate offense a
reputation for staring down some of the top pitchers in the nation. Wes
Roemer from Cal State-Fullerton and Barry Enright from Pepperdine were both
Preseason All-Americans, and Andrew Brackman from N.C. State was named ACC
Pitcher of the Week in late February.
But to hitters like Eldridge, Ryan Tousley and
Dale Mollenauer – with 46 RBI's combined – even the best pitcher can be
rattled by power and consistency.
“You hear all these things in the media about
how good these guys are, but like Coach Godwin said, none of these guys have
ever won every game,” said Tousley, who is second on the team with four home
runs this season. “They’ve all lost at some point. And we think we’re good
enough hitters to go up there and play our game and do the things that we do
The challenge continues this weekend when
Michigan comes to Clark-LeClair Stadium for a three-game series. The
Wolverines’ pitching staff is potent, with sophomore Zach Putnam projected
as the 2007 Big Ten Player of the Year and Chris Fetter being named to the
watch list for the preseason Clemens Award.
But as tentative as they might have felt early
in the season, the Pirate sluggers now have the assurance that they can
achieve a mental edge against a top pitcher and effectively take him out of
“We’ve (competed) against the best, and we’ve
done well against the best,” Tousley said. ‘Obviously, they’re not going to
get any better than the best, so I think we’ll be all right.”
For the Pirate pitching staff, the fireworks at
the plate mean they can be more laidback when they stop on the mound. It’s a
sign of a healthy team when no one aspect of the game is expected to carry
the day, said ECU pitcher T.J. Hose, who is scheduled to start tonight
“It just takes a lot of pressure off of you,”
Hose said. “You don’t try to be too fine out there. You just go right at
them and let your defense work, and try to get your team back in the dugout
as soon as possible.”
From head coach Billy Godwin’s perspective, one
of the main differences since the Campbell game is that the excuses have
stopped. During that team meeting, he talked about accountability and
leadership, he said. They are favorite concepts of many coaches, but this
time the audience was ready to take the lessons to heart.
“They just decided to step it up,” Godwin said.
“I don’t think our team changed physically overnight. I think what changed
is their attitude.”
“We’re just playing with a lot more confidence
out there, and coming in with a chip on our shoulder, like expecting to win
each day,” said Hose.
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03/16/2007 12:13:39 AM