NEWS, NOTES &
The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
By Bethany Bradsher
Strong medicine has its
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(ECU SID Photos)
The women on the East Carolina softball team know that you can’t ignore
their 2-7 record. They know you’ll look at that disappointing start, but
they sincerely hope you’ll give those first nine games more than a passing
Look at the margin of victory in their three games against No. 3 Florida. In
all three contests, the Pirates lost by just one run.
After the final matchup the Gators’ head coach called the Pirates “the best
2-7 team I’ve ever seen.”
Look at the power of Pirate hitters like Marina Gusman-Brown, batting .423
with 11 hits and four RBI, and Charina Sumner, who has collected 10 hits and
Take time to examine the cool head and steady arm of pitcher Toni Paisley,
the defending Conference USA Pitcher of the Year who has already struck out
52 batters this season, including 10 in a 7-2 victory over Campbell.
The early slate, which came in two Florida tournaments, do spell a degree of
disappointment because ECU is an experienced, talented team with players who
believe they can compete with any team in the country. But they are far from
downtrodden as they prepare to host the Pirate Classic this weekend
featuring Delaware, Towson, Penn State and Morehead State.
“I think we have been playing very well,” said veteran coach Tracey Kee, who
earned her 575th win at the helm of the ECU softball team on Feb. 13. “We
get a break one way or the other, and any one of those losses could easily
be a win.”
Even if the Lady Pirates would love to have a different kind of early
record, Paisley and her teammates wouldn’t trade the experience gained from
sharing a field with the likes of Florida, Georgia Tech and Kansas.
“If you look at our schedule compared to years past you know that we’re
playing big teams, playing Florida three times, and it’s awesome for your
strength of schedule, and it’s awesome to see where we’re at,” Paisley said.
“If you followed our games — two of them were 4-3, one 1-0. You can’t ask
for more but a win, and it’s going to come.”
While Kee found plenty to like in her team’s trips to Florida, she hopes to
zero in on one major cause of the close defeats — the Lady Pirates'
inability to convert big hits with batters in scoring position. If they can
pull out hits at those crucial times, the left column of the team’s record
should quickly overshadow the right.
Paisley thinks that it won’t take long for her team to get in the habit of
“We’re regrouping, and we know we’re going to start rolling through teams
once we get over this little speed bump,” Paisley said. “We’re going to have
a go at these teams (at the Pirate Classic) and try to put a beating on
At the heart of the 2010 Pirates squad are its eight seniors, a group that
includes six players from either Hawaii or California. Most of those
upperclassmen were key elements in ECU’s 40-15 2009 campaign. They also went
19-5 in C-USA last year for the most conference wins in program history, but
a first-round loss in the league tournament erased their hopes of qualifying
for an NCAA Regional.
When NCAA tournament selection time came around last year, Kee was told that
her team was forced to stay home because their schedule wasn’t strong
enough. So she promptly scheduled teams like Florida and Georgia Tech to
combat that notion. That decision may not have yielded many wins, but Kee
and the players are confident that their whole season will be better because
of those two weeks in the Sunshine State.
“The mood is still strong,” said senior Gusman-Brown. “ Yeah, there were
setbacks, but we’re still playing really good ball. Some opportunities have
passed, but there are a lot more coming.”
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