NEWS, NOTES &
The Bradsher Beat
Saturday, March 22, 2008
By Bethany Bradsher
'Mr. Sunday' finds his place
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(Photo: ECU SID)
In this era of sports specialization —
11-year-olds going to pitching clinics and 9-year-olds focusing only on
blocking — Justin Bristow is a rare commodity.
Bristow, who transferred to East Carolina from
Auburn in the fall, is that exceptional college baseball player who still
multitasks. When he was recruited out of Mills Godwin High School in
Richmond three years ago, coaches wanted him for his trifold talent of
pitching, hitting and fielding.
Plenty of Division I schools came knocking out
of high school, but Auburn offered him the opportunity to do both of the
things he liked best: be a starting pitcher and a third baseman. But
injuries and lineup changes dismantled that plan, leading Bristow to start
53 games at shortstop as a freshman but none on the mound. As a sophomore,
he started eight games in the infield and four as a pitcher.
Over the course of those two years, Bristow came
to realize that Auburn wasn’t the right fit for him, and he still held out
hope of filling both of those roles.
“I thought I found a place where I was
comfortable,” he said earlier this week. “I liked Auburn a lot, it just
happened that after two years it wasn’t the right situation."
Godwin came calling, and Bristow felt like ECU
was a better fit because it was closer to home and the coaching staff seemed
more committed to using his blend of talents.
“It was an easy transition for me,” Bristow
When he first donned a Pirates uniform, Bristow
was penciled in as a possible starting third baseman, and the coaches sang
the praises of his mechanics and toughness on the mound. But as the
preseason unfolded, the ECU coaches realized that while Bristow should
definitely start, the space on the field he should occupy was actually
several yards over from third base, on the pitcher’s mound.
As part of the ECU starting rotation, Bristow is
3-0 already, with a reputation for being Mr. Sunday, Godwin said.
“Justin’s made a tremendous contribution to go
out and be 3-0 for us on Sundays,” Godwin said. “Sundays are a very
important time for us.”
Bristow’s arm has definitely become a valuable
commodity, and both player and coach realized early in the season that third
base wasn’t the place to keep that asset safe. After attempting to play
third in the season-opening series at South Carolina, Bristow had to face
the reality of what he was asking his body to do.
“I wanted to do both, but being a starting
pitcher and playing third base is pretty much impossible,” Bristow said. “I
appreciate the opportunity they gave me to try to do it, but I went in there
to their office after the first week and said, ‘I don’t think this is going
to work out.’ ”
Bristow is still taking some opportunities to
sharpen his non-pitching skills, as a backup first baseman, a late
replacement pinch hitter and a designated hitter against some left-handed
pitchers. He can remain an unpredictable threat, Godwin said, as long as his
long throws in the infield and his multiple at-bats are limited.
“You have to balance it, because when he goes
out there on Sunday you want him to be fresh,” Godwin said. “Playing the
left side is a very demanding thing.”
At the plate so far this season, Bristow has two
hits and two runs in 13 at-bats. On the mound, he has a team-high 1.93 ERA
and 22 strikeouts. Along with his teammates, he is anxious to prove what the
nationally-ranked Pirates can do against their Conference USA opponents,
starting with this weekend's three-game set against visiting Houston.
“I think you almost have to start over once
Conference USA starts,” Bristow said before the start of the Houston series.
“We’re coming in hot. We just need to start off on a good foot in conference
The Cougars are
perennially one of the teams to beat in the conference, Godwin said as his
team prepared for the league opener, and ECU needs to keep up its recent
offensive fireworks to build on its momentum.
“I said at the beginning of the year, I thought
this club was one of the best offensive clubs I’ve ever been around,”
Godwin said. “I knew what they were capable of doing. It’s just nice to
see that they can go out when the scoreboard comes on and produce.”
trounced the Pirates 14-2 on Friday
in the series opener, ending ECU's winning streak at 13. The teams meet
again today at 3 p.m.
Bristow is expected to
get the start in the series wrap-up on Sunday at 11 a.m.
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03/21/2008 10:54:32 PM