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Bailey's Take on Pirate Sports

From the Anchor Desk
Wednesday, June 1, 2005
By Brian Bailey

Worry turned to opportunity for Pirates


Things got a little scary for this East Carolina baseball team as the field of 64 was being announced for the upcoming NCAA baseball tournament.

Brackets at Georgia Tech and Clemson were revealed, with no mention of the Pirates. All that was left were a couple of more brackets.

Finally, though, the players erupted when they heard the magic words.

ECU would head west, joining Coastal Carolina and UNLV in Tempe in the Arizona State regional.

“There were only two or three to go and they hadn’t announced us yet,” Pirate Coach Randy Mazey said. “The way this season has gone, that was perfect.”

ECU outfielder Brian Cavanaugh agreed.

“I was scared, real scared," he admitted. "I saw Georgia Tech pass by, saw Clemson pass by, and I saw Coach Mazey walk by, and he didn’t look too happy. I thought maybe he knew something we didn’t. But as soon as I heard our name, I was jacked.”

This Pirate program is rarely, if ever, intimidated. Arizona State swept ECU in a three game series in Tempe in ’04. Many of the players agreed this week that despite the sweep, the trip to Tempe was certainly a positive.

ASU is the lone No. 2 seed to host a regional this year.

Coastal Carolina is the top seed in the event. Their reward for a great season is a cross country trip and an opportunity to play the role of underdog to the Sun Devils in Tempe.

You could call this Arizona State regional the “Carolinas Invitational.”

Coastal Carolina beat East Carolina 11-5 earlier this season in the Baseball at the Beach Tournament in Myrtle Beach.

ASU was in town to help open Clark-LeClair Stadium back in March. The Sun Devils handed ECU its only loss that weekend, a 10-3 setback in the Keith LeClair Classic.

UNLV’s connection to Carolina sits in the athletic director’s chair. While this reporter has long maintained that Mike Hamrick had many more negatives then positives at East Carolina, his hiring of Randy Mazey has proven in retrospect to have been an outstanding move.

East Carolina is now just one of 12 teams in the nation that made it into the NCAA regionals for the seventh straight time.

That’s a credit to Keith LeClair, to Kevin McMullan (who took over for LeClair during the early stages of LeClair’s illness) and to Randy Mazey.

(Incidentally, McMullan is doing a great job at the University of Virginia as the Cavaliers' top assistant. Virginia had a great run in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, losing to Georgia Tech in the championship game. The Cavaliers are a No. 2 seed in the Oregon State regional.)

The Pirates open with ASU on Friday night at 10 p.m.

Coach Mazey wasn’t specific about his pitching plans, but he said he thought that T.J. Hose would go in the Pirates' first game.

Ricky Brooks would likely follow, and then you may see a true "bullpen by committee."

ECU's depleted staff may have to come up with a trick or two for the team to stay alive in the tournament.

Regardless, this most trying season for the Pirates continues on, just like the six years before this one.

East Carolina is a part of the postseason party after a 35-24 record that nobody was really happy with.

It just shows that you set your expectations high, and let the cards falls as they will.

The Pirates left for Tempe on Tuesday morning. Perhaps the team will get out west and have a day or so for some much needed “R & R.”

Come Friday, though, it’s back to the business of baseball and that match-up with Arizona State.

Coach Mazey summed up the opportunity when he addressed the Pirates shortly after the announcement that they would play in Tempe.

“Guys, I like our chances,” Mazey told the players. “I think you guys have a lot to be proud of. I think we head west with a lot of confidence. Let’s keep fighting, ‘cause this thing ain’t over yet!”

That season-long fight continues. It should be a great regional in Tempe!

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02/23/2007 01:31:54 AM

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