NEWS, NOTES &
The Bradsher Beat
Friday, May 16, 2008
By Bethany Bradsher
Pirates' youth movement
All rights reserved.
When a freshman suits up and takes the field for
the first time on a Division I team, he brings along a boatload of emotions:
excitement, uncertainty, hope and fear, often with an extra dose of the last
Emotion has its place in athletic competition,
and no coach wants an athlete who operates automatically. But East Carolina
baseball coach Billy Godwin has found that, when it comes to his freshmen,
the best prepared are the ones who can keep their feelings in check.
“Those guys have a high skill level, a high feel
for the game, and they have tremendous poise,” Godwin said of the first-year
players who have excelled this season. “They’ve just been outstanding.”
A handful of freshmen — Seth Maness, Dustin
Harrington, Brad Mincey, Seth Simmons, Sthil Sowers, Trent Whitehead — have
been employing Godwin’s “grace under pressure” tactic with great success
Here’s a sampling of newcomer highlights from
the past few weeks:
Maness was one of two
Pirate hurlers (with junior Justin Bristow) to be named to the watch
list for the Roger Clemens Award, given annually to the top pitcher in
the collegiate ranks. With his 9-1 record, Maness leads the ECU pitching
staff with a 3.11 ERA and 67 strikeouts. His most recent victory came
Thursday night at Memphis, where he struck out eight batters and allowed
just one run in ECU’s 8-1 victory over the Tigers.
With his win against Presbyterian College on April 25, Maness became the
first freshman in ECU's history to start a season at 7-0, and he is one
of only two pitchers in Conference USA — along with Tulane’s Shooter
Hunt — with nine wins.
A native of Pinehurst, Maness was drawn to East Carolina by the team
values, the coaching and the facilities. The most abrupt part of his
initiation was the power and accuracy of top Division I hitters. It
quickly became clear to Maness that the style of pitching that allowed
him to dominate the competition at Pinecrest High School had
shortcomings at the major college level. He made adjustments, and
opposing hitters are much less intimidating now.
“It was a big jump from high school,” said Maness, who was also honored
as the Pitcher of the Year recently by the fans in The Jungle. “I used
to get away with a lot of pitches that I can‘t get away with now. You go
out there, and you learn. I feel like I‘ve learned a lot more than I did
when I was in high school. I was probably more of a thrower in high
school, and now I‘m more of a pitcher.”
In Thursday’s Memphis
victory, Dustin Harrington extended his hitting streak to 12 straight
games with a hit and went 3-for-4 with two RBI's.
Harrington, who played at Alexander Central High School in Taylorsville,
has earned his way into the starting lineup this year, playing shortstop
and batting .309 with 55 hits and 30 runs. His most vivid memory of last
fall, when he was trying to adjust to a new level of pitching and
adapting to college life in general, was the 4 a.m. running and weights
workouts during the off season. Those tough workouts were the “you’re
not in high school anymore” moment for Harrington, and he set about
reinventing himself as a player.
“The coaches just told me to come out here and play hard,” he said. “I
had seniors in front of me. So I came out and played hard, and I guess
it just went my way. I was very nervous at the beginning of the year.
You’re seeing pitchers throwing 90, 90-plus every weekend.”
Several other new
pitchers were instrumental in ECU’s Tuesday night win over UNC-Wilmington.
Simmons (Lewisville Calvary Baptist), who has made 24 appearances in
relief, picked up his second save and was joined in the mound rotation
that night by Brad Mincey (New Hanover) and six upperclassmen pitchers.
Lenoir), 4-3, has started eight games and, after throwing the first
complete game of his career against UNCW in April, was voted C-USA
Pitcher of the week. The freshman gave up just six hits and held the
Seahawks scoreless through 8.2 innings until giving up a solo home run
in the ninth inning. Sowers did not walk a batter, fanned five and did
not allow a runner past second until that one home run.
Of course, every Pirate
player is coached to take one game at a time and not to jump ahead of the
task at hand, but these freshmen can’t help but anticipate the potential
challenges of the postseason. They may be the youngest, but they know they
can also be difference-makers and meet tough opponents with, well, poise.
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05/16/2008 02:39:43 AM