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The Bradsher Beat
Friday, March 7, 2008

By Bethany Bradsher

LeClair's brainchild draws solid field

By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.

Barring the elements, the national-caliber baseball invitational conceived by an East Carolina Hall of Famer and hosted by the program he loved in the facility that carries his name will get underway today.

The hosts were already making alterations Thursday for the inclement weather that was being predicted on the opening day of the Fifth Annual Keith LeClair Classic featuring a field of respected teams.

The initial game between No. 15 Michigan and Georgia Southern was rescheduled for 9 a.m. this morning, but ECU head coach Billy Godwin was still looking forward to the event that the late LeClair first envisioned years ago.

“It’s hard to describe because he meant so much to the program and the university," said Godwin. "His vision was to take the best teams, and I think we’ve done that.”

The Pirates are scheduled to take the field against Pittsburgh Friday at 5 p.m., but Godwin knows that the unpredictable forecast might be a bigger player in the outcome of the evening than anyone wearing cleats in the confines of Clark-LeClair Stadium.

“The weather is always a battle,” Godwin said. “In baseball, we just kind of pull the tarp and when it stops raining, we play.”

Junior infielder Ryan Wood thinks the time is right for his team to face a challenge like the Classic, especially since the Pirates’ recent four-game winning streak has helped them get into the habit of victory.

“We’ve just got to find a way to win, and I think we’ve done that lately,” Wood said.

With its high level of competition, the tournament puts the Diamond Bucs in a postseason state of mind in the early part of the season, Wood said, reminding them of the intense competition at the top of Division I and showing them that are equipped to meet the kinds of teams that make regular visits to Omaha.

One key factor in the Pirates’ win streak has been the clutch performances from freshmen like Dustin Harrington and Brad Mincey. Mincey, a pitcher from Wilmington, pitched 7 1/3 innings of relief against Virginia Commonwealth on Wednesday to propel the Pirates to a 7-4 victory. On Wednesday at Old Dominion, Harrington, who is from Taylorsville, scored three runs and three RBI's in his first collegiate start and scored Brandon Henderson when he reached first base on an ODU error.

“That at-bat he had at ODU was incredible, probably the best at-bat I’ve ever seen,” Wood said of Henderson’s smooth adjustment to the college game.

Hoops season ends for Lady Bucs

With their 69-55 loss to Rice in the first round of the Conference USA Tournament Thursday, the women’s team effectively destroyed any hopes of a second consecutive NCAA bid.

It was a team that had some bright moments this season, and some flashes of the teamwork and talent that led the program to the top of the C-USA last year. But a three-game losing streak to close the regular season took the air out of the Lady Pirates' sails and led to an early exit from the postseason.

The good news? ECU loses only one player – forward Nicole Days – to graduation. The core of the team, especially guards Jasmine Young and Lacoya Terry, will be back next winter, no doubt ready to prove that 2007 was more representative of their abilities than 2008.

A streak in women’s tennis

Quietly, because most fans don’t follow the sport closely, the women’s tennis players collected 10 wins in a row before the trend was broken on Thursday by a 6-1 loss to Virginia Tech.

The team, which includes five seniors and is led by coach Tom Morris, beat two opponents – North Carolina A&T and North Carolina Central – by a 7-0 margin. The women also secured their first-ever national ranking, and this week they sit at No. 63 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) rankings.

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03/07/2008 03:28:17 AM

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