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Bailey's Take on Pirate Sports


From the Anchor Desk
Friday, May 30, 2003
By Brian Bailey
Sports Anchor of WNCT-TV 9

Road to Omaha starts in town kind to 'believers'


East Carolina Coach Randy Mazey doesn’t particularly like the match up with No. 2 seed South Carolina to open the NCAA regionals.

“They have strong left handed pitching and that doesn’t match up with us very well,” Mazey said. “But we’ll just have to find a way.”

Mazey’s Pirates have found a way during much of this season. The squad won eight of ten Conference USA sets. Pitching has been the key, because this team never did hit like Mazey had hoped it would.

Despite the pitching strengths, it’s still surprising to note that ECU's hurlers set a school record this year by striking out 460 batters. Glenn Tucker has 80 K’s this season, while Will Brinson, who will start Friday’s game for East Carolina, has fanned 71 batters.

The Pirates enter the post season with a team ERA of 4.10. That mark was fourth best in Conference USA, behind Houston, Southern Miss and Tulane. ECU pitchers also held opposing hitters to a .269 batting average, which was best in the league this season.

Pirates, Cocks no strangers in postseason

East Carolina and South Carolina have met a total of 13 times on the diamond, with the Gamecocks winning 10 of those games. The schools have also played three times in the NCAA Tournament, and the ‘Cocks won all three of those games.

Ironically, the last time these two met was in 1993, also in Atlanta in the NCAA tournament. South Carolina edge ECU 6-5 in that opening round game.

Regional host and top-seeded Georgia Tech is ranked 10th in this week's Collegiate Baseball poll, while South Carolina is ranked 15th in the same poll. The Yellow Jackets are No. 7 in the USA Today Sports Weekly/ESPN Coaches poll, while the Gamecocks come in at No. 24 in the poll. Tech is also ranked seventh by Baseball America, while South Carolina is rated 21st by the same publication.

No. 3 seed ECU and Stetson, the region's fourth seed, are not ranked.

The Pirates have a nice history in gaining berths in the NCAA tournament. This will be the program's 19th trip to baseball’s version of the “Big Dance.” ECU played in the regionals a total of eleven times through the 1980’s. Since 1990, the Pirates have made it into the tournament nine times.

Randy Mazey’s goal when he took over as East Carolina’s coach was to take this team to Omaha.

Keith LeClair got the Pirates the closest to making the trip to the College Baseball World Series, when East Carolina hosted but lost to Tennessee, where Mazey was an assistant coach at the time, in the Super Regionals in 2001.

I can still hear the trembling in Keith LeClair’s voice after that second crushing loss to the Volunteers.

“This team will, this program will, someday make it to Omaha,” LeClair vowed.

Coach, we think about you and your family all the time, but especially at this time of the year. This was LeClair’s shining moment. Other coaches helped to put East Carolina baseball on the map. Other coaches had the Pirates thinking that they could make it to Omaha.

Keith LeClair had them believing.

Believers have found big rewards before in Atlanta, in the Peach Bowl after the 1991 football season. There's no reason another inspirational story can't unfold, this time on the diamond.

Good luck to Coach Randy Mazey and this 2003 Pirate baseball team in Atlanta.

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02/23/2007 01:26:36 AM

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