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Bailey's Take on Pirate Baseball

From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, February 19, 2002
By Brian Bailey
Sports Anchor of WNCT-TV 9


Swinging for the Fences Still Part of the Mix


Pirates Spring Out of Gates on All Cylinders

The field was in immaculate shape. The crowd was huge. The Pirates won.

They did it with power. They did it with pitching. They even mixed in a little luck, which all equaled out to three big wins.

Baseball was back in a big way at East Carolina. The Pirates swept the three-game series over a very good Delaware baseball team.

In the opener, the Pirates flexed a little muscle they probably didn’t think they had. Last year the Pirates hit 85 home runs. This year’s team returned just 23 of those round-trippers.

But in game one, the Pirates banged out four home runs. Warren Gaspar, the speedy centerfielder, hit a grand slam to get things going. Gaspar had two home runs in the opener, both left-handed. Last season, he hit a grand total of two home runs, both right handed.

“I was really lucky,” Gaspar said. “An inch one way or the other, and it’s a pop-up to the catcher. But I’ll take the two home runs for sure.”

Game two was a thriller, keeping the fans in their seats until the winning run was scored. 

Here’s where the Pirates benefited from a little luck. With the game tied at two, Luke Cherry led off the bottom of the 10th with a base hit.

Pirate assistant coach Kevin McMullan then called for a sacrifice bunt from his hitter, Jamie Paige. Cherry, though, missed the sign, and took off for second before the bunt was laid down. When Paige took the pitch, Cherry should have been a dead duck at second base.

But Cherry slid in head first, and barely missed two different tags. The first tag came in front of the bag, missing Cherry on the back. Cherry then hung on to the bag, and was safely into scoring position.

The ball beat Cherry to the bag. But when the Delaware player followed Cherry to the bag with the tag, I think the umpire took it as a sign that the first tag was missed.

Paige then got the bunt down, and was safe at first when another tag was missed. The Blue Hens were unraveling in front of a huge Pirate crowd.

The Hens then walked Gaspar to load the bases. Darryl Lawhorn lined a shot to right field that was caught with the outfield in.

That set the stage for Bryant Ward, who’s bullet was deflected at third, allowing Cherry to trop home with the game winner.

McMullan knew that a little luck was involved in the 10th inning.

“You didn’t think I would straight steal in the 10th,” McMullan joked. “It was a missed sign, but give Cherry credit for still getting in there at second.”

Pirates win, 3-2 in 10 innings.

Team Gains No. 400 for LeClair

The Saturday loss took just about everything out of the Delaware ball club and ECU's hurlers fired a shutout on Sunday, winning 9-0. Davey Penny pitched seven scoreless innings and Bryant Ward and Ryan Jones combined to drive in six runs in the victory.

Penny held the Blue Hens to four hits while striking out seven and walking only two. Jason Tourangeau and Greg Bunn each pitched a hitless inning of relief to finish off the game. The Pirate trio did not allow an extra base hit.

Pirate Coach Keith LeClair was not in the dugout all weekend, the only real damper of the three game series. LeClair was discharged from the hospital on Friday after undergoing a medical procedure that will hopefully allow him to return to the ECU dugout soon.

LeClair wasn’t on hand for his 400th coaching victory, which came on Saturday in that Pirate win over Delaware.

Next up, East Carolina plays host to Virginia Commonwealth on Wednesday. The crowds this weekend were nothing short of spectacular, and the Pirates deserve nothing less than the same when the Rams come to town.

As expected, this ECU team puts on a great show. They are very well coached and fundamentally sound.

This weekend’s three-game sweep has many already looking forward to the Conference USA tournament in May. The Pirates should compete for the league championship, though there are several outstanding programs in the league.

Again, the only damper on the weekend was Coach LeClair’s absence. Coach, the Pirate faithful can’t wait to see you back in the dugout!

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02/23/2007 01:22:10 AM

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