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From the Anchor Desk
Wednesday, May 28, 2003
By Brian Bailey
Sports Anchor of WNCT-TV 9

All not pleased with Pirates' postseason berth


As East Carolina celebrated its at-large bid into the NCAA baseball tournament, several coaches and schools around the country were hollering foul.

The Pirates knew going into Monday that they were very much a “bubble team.”

Coach Randy Mazey said he was nervous as the selection show began, but he thought he had someone on the "inside" of the selection process — to tell him early if his team was in or out.

In the end, that source was unable to provide much insight and the suspense became agonizing before ECU finally got a break.

The No. 51 RPI wasn’t earth-shattering, but it was good enough for the committee.

Give credit to the “program”. East Carolina is known for baseball.

My career started with the Gary Overton era. Then came Keith LeClair and a remarkable run that became complicated in 2002 when LeClair's health deteriorated.

Give a little credit for this year’s NCAA berth to Kevin McMullan, who pinch hit for LeClair last year and helped lead the team to the Clemson regional.

And give a big pat on the back to Randy Mazey, who has had his share of problems this year. This team overcame adversity to advance to baseball’s version of the big dance.

The goal is Omaha. However, you have to first make the field. This wasn’t a banner year for the Pirates, but because of “the program” this team’s season continues.

Several coaches around the country weren’t so impressed. West Virginia Coach Greg Van Zant told the Charleston Daily Mail that he was “99 percent sure” that his team would be in the NCAA tournament.

The Mountaineers, despite an RPI of 38, were left out. His exact quote went as follows: “You’ve got to wonder what the heck is going on,” he said. “It’s absurd. Putting Florida in is ridiculous. I don’t know what East Carolina did to make the tournament.”

I’ll admit that I had my doubts about East Carolina making the tournament. It’s a credit to the league that they play in. Conference USA’s overall strength worked in the Pirates' favor.

But for some reason that same strength didn’t work in Texas Christian’s favor. The Horned Frogs swept East Carolina this season and finished 22-8 in the league.

In the final analysis, though, TCU is the first C-USA team to win 22 league games and not make the NCAA field.

Frogs coach Lance Brown was steaming on Monday. He let off some of that steam when asked about the situation by the Fort Worth Star Telegram.

“It’s about the same thing I thought last year when I saw South Florida and Tulane pop up," he told the newspaper. "How do you take a team that has not done any better than that in conference, out of conference, whatever and give them an invitation to go some place.

"When I saw that, I thought, ‘Well, we’re not going to be in.’ If they’re going to take somebody that low, they’re going to skip over No. 2 and take 4 and 5. It’s sort of sad, really. I can’t even begin to explain how that can happen.”

I say TCU should have gotten in, but not at East Carolina’s expense.

Florida is the team that I have the most trouble with making the regionals. The Gators failed to even make the 8-team field in the Southeastern Conference Tournament. Still, somehow, the Gators are in.

Detractors to the Pirates point to the RPI of 51 and the fact that the Pirates had lost 14 of their final 23 games.

I say the Pirates didn’t necessarily get in on this season’s merit. It’s a sign of respect for the East Carolina baseball program.

And in a very difficult year for ECU athletics, isn’t it nice to get some respect!

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02/23/2007 01:26:35 AM

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