NEWS, NOTES &
The Bradsher Beat
Friday, May 23, 2008
By Bethany Bradsher
Pitching out of turn pays off
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No athlete in the history of double elimination
has ever wished to toil in the loser’s bracket. But their journey to the
doldrums of the Conference USA Tournament brought the East Carolina Pirates
to one of the greatest moments of the season.
With T.J. Hose pitching 4.1 hitless innings in
just his third relief appearance of the year, the Diamond Bucs defeated Rice
4-3 on Thursday to send the Owls packing.
Rice entered the tournament as its top seed and
the No. 5 team in the nation.
It was a clutch victory made even sweeter by
ECU’s recent futility against the Owls (the last time the Pirates beat Rice
was in 2006) and by ECU’s need to redeem two losses in a week — to Memphis
on Sunday and to Houston on Wednesday in a 10-inning first-round tournament
“It was just a huge game for us, mentally,
because we lost a game against Memphis, then a heartbreaker against
Houston,” Hose said. “We just knew that we couldn’t go into regionals on a
For the record, Hose was originally scheduled to
watch Thursday’s action from the dugout. The senior from Hagerstown, MD, was
slated as the Pirates’ Game 3 starter. But he made one thing perfectly clear
to the ECU coaching staff — he would forego that start and pitch any number
of innings in relief if it would help propel his team forward.
On Thursday morning, with Rice’s dangerous
offense always just a hit away from a rally, Hose got his chance. He entered
the game in the fifth, smoothing the path for his teammates to take the lead
in the sixth with a three-run inning keyed by Corey Kemp’s solo home run.
Hose's insertion into the game means that Sthil Sowers will likely start
tonight in his place, but Hose doesn’t have one regret about volunteering.
“I just told Coach, ‘Look, the third game’s not
guaranteed, and if I have the chance to help us win I want to do that,’ Hose
said. “I don’t think anyone expected ECU and Rice to be playing in an
“I was able to make pitches when I needed to and
make outs when we needed them,” he said.
It was just the kind of rocket boost the Pirates
needed to move on in the tournament, which will continue with ECU facing
either Houston or UAB Friday night.
Because of heavy rain Thursday after the
conclusion of the ECU-Rice game, several of the other second-round games
were postponed. So Houston and UAB will play at 12:30 CDT and then the
winner of that game will face the Pirates at 7:30 CDT.
Either matchup would be a test. UAB, seeded
eighth in the tournament, shocked the field on Wednesday with its 8-3
victory over Rice, the game that send the Owls into the loser’s bracket
to meet the Pirates.
Or ECU could get another run at Houston, this
time as the team that sent the top seed home.
It was a triumph that the ECU players will carry
around like an inner trophy. But it never could have happened if they hadn’t
been first been labeled as losers.
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05/23/2008 04:33:52 AM