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Bailey's Take on Pirate Sports

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From the Anchor Desk
Wednesday, April 10, 2002
By Brian Bailey
Sports Anchor of WNCT-TV 9


ECU still in the mix in tough league race


A "Series to Remember"

I said beforehand that last weekend's series with Houston would have all the feel of a regional or even a super regional.

East Carolina was playing one of the nation’s top teams, and it was playing them at home. Most importantly, though, ECU was beating them.

Fifth-ranked Houston came to town with the swagger of a great team. The Pirates started slowly, really struggling against Cougar ace Brad Sullivan.

Sullivan did not disappoint, as he was as good as advertised.

ECU's game plan in the opener was to hang around with Sullivan on the mound, and try to get to the Cougar bullpen. The strategy worked to perfection.

Credit Sam Narron for keeping the Pirates close in the game. Without Narron’s performance, the Pirates would not have had a chance to come back and pick up the win.

Freshman sensation Darryl Lawhorn and senior Clayton McCullough were the stars at the plate in the first game. McCullough’s two run double in the sixth tied the game, and then Lawhorn lined one into right centerfield for the game-winning hit.

That first game win really took the wind out of Houston's sails for game two. The Cougars didn’t play like the fifth best team in the country, committing six errors.

Davey Penny got the job done on the mound and gave his team a great chance at a sweep on Sunday.

Unfortunately, Houston won the third game in the series on Sunday, 7-3. The Cougar’s bullpen held ECU to just one hit over the last 5 and 2/3 innings.

It will go down as a “series to remember” for several reasons.

First, the two wins put East Carolina right back into the Conference USA race. This is a tough league. One bad weekend can hurt you, like the one the Pirates experienced against Texas Christian, but it shouldn’t bury you.

By taking two out of three from Houston, the Pirates moved to within a couple of games of Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles are 9-3, while Houston, Louisville and TCU are all 8-4. Then, it’s South Florida at 7-5 and ECU at 6-5-1.

East Carolina vaulted back into the national rankings in all three major polls after the successful weekend. The Pirates highest ranking was 20th.

Also, credit the the respect the East Carolina program gets on the diamond for Houston not falling very far in the polls.

The Cougars fell just a couple of places in all three rankings because voters knew that playing at East Carolina was a tough assignment for any team.

The Pirates had another great effort Tuesday night, falling at Elon 3-1. Elon has an excellent program, and has a couple of wins over Miami this season. Last week, the Pirates shut out Elon at Harrington Field.

It is midweek competition like Elon that makes a team better when the weekend rolls around.

Tonight, the Pirates will be looking to snap a two-game losing streak when they host Duke. Another big crowd is expected, especially with the visitor being an ACC school.

Former Pirate Gridiron Stars Coming Home

Several ECU football greats with pro football pedigrees will be on hand this week as Ironwood and the Pitt County Pirate Club host their 12th annual golf tournament.

George Koonce, Earnest Byner, Vinson Smith and Steve Hamilton will all be back on campus.

While I have met both Byner and Hamilton, I had the chance to cover Koonce and Smith when they played for East Carolina.

Both Koonce and Smith were as nice off the field as they were mean on the field. These guys wouldn’t hurt a flea, unless the flea wore the colors of the Pirates' opponent.

These two are the type of young men that you hope your son grows up to be like. They were always polite, friendly and eager to please Pirate fans and the media.

They were both also eager to put a hurting on the opposition. They may very well be two of the best to ever play on defense at East Carolina.

Obviously, Byner and Hamilton were also great players, and I wish that I had been around for their careers as well.

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02/23/2007 01:21:44 AM

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