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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, February 26, 2008

By Brian Bailey

Will the real ECU please stand up?

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.

Billy Godwin told me he’d never really seen anything like it. His Pirates opened the 2008 season by laying a big, fat egg.

South Carolina bolted out to a 16-0 lead, beating East Carolina in that first game 22-5.

It was one of the worst performances I’ve ever had a chance to see in person. The “Bad News Pirates” didn’t hit, didn’t field, and basically didn’t play in that first game.

T.J. Hose had one of his worst outings ever, going only 1 1/3 innings, giving up 9 earned runs on 9 hits. Hose knew some of the Gamecock players from his summer baseball, and was told by them that he was tipping his pitches.

If that lineup did know what was coming, then Hose didn’t stand a chance. South Carolina has a powerful lineup and it held batting practice at the expense of the Pirates.

For Hose, I say it was a tough lesson, but one that he’ll certainly never forget. T.J. Hose is a fighter, a class kid, and a pitcher that will win plenty of games for East Carolina this season.

The Pirates were a much different team that night in the second game of the series. This was more like the baseball club we all expected to see.

Credit freshman pitcher Seth Maness for an outstanding start to his career. Maness held the Gamecock sluggers to just three runs on five hits. He struck out five in four innings of work.

Brandon Henderson had the big blast in the second game. Henderson’s grand slam sent the Gamecock fans packing. The Pirates took game two by a 13-4 final.

Game three was more like what we all expected going into the series. The game had an NCAA feel to it, with both teams battling through every pitch.

East Carolina jumped out to the lead after Drew Schieber hit a two run homer.

The Pirates held that lead until the 7th inning. That’s when Justin Smoak hit a two-run home run to give the Gamecocks a 5-4 lead.

Smoak was the beneficiary of several close calls on balls and strikes in that at bat. Sthil Sowers should have gotten a strikeout before the blast. For whatever reason, all of a sudden the strike zone turned microscopic, and Smoak took advantage of the gift.

Still, this Pirate team fought back. The Pirates manufactured a run in the ninth to tie. Schieber stayed hot, leading off the frame with a double to the centerfield wall. He moved to third on a sacrifice bunt, and then strolled home when Ryan Wood went the other way with a ground ball.

The excitement continued until the 11th. The Pirates took a 6-5 lead when Stephen Batts drove home a sliding Schieber on a close play at the plate.

The Pirates, though, gave up two runs in the bottom of the inning. South Carolina’s Kyle Enders was the hero, knocking home two with a shot up the middle that almost took Josh Ruhlman’s head off.

The Pirates fell 7-6 in 11 innings.

Coach Billy Godwin reflected on the weekend.

"There is really nothing negative I can say other than we didn't get the result we wanted," said Godwin. "I'm real encouraged by some of things I saw. You look out there in the last inning and we had a freshman playing short, and a freshman in left. I think Sthil Sowers did a great job and I think Justin Bristow pitched really well for us.

"We might not see another club as good as this one on offense. They’ve got a great club.”

There are no moral victories, though. Godwin made that crystal clear.

“For our guys to come in here and battle the way they did, it makes you somewhat proud,” Godwin continued. “But this is about results. We’ve got to go out and get results and win games.”

Stephen Batt’s saw his hitting streak end in that first game of the series. But red-hot Jamie Ray extended his streak to 18 games with a big weekend.

Injury update

There is great news to report on Pirate closer Bailey Daniels. Daniels will not miss the season for “Tommy John” surgery on his elbow. An MRI shows just a strain of the flexor muscle in his right elbow. He’ll most likely make his 2008 debut in the LeClair Tournament in a couple of weeks.

Outfielder Trent Ashcraft could play at Elon this week, or he might make his debut this weekend against Monmouth. Ashcraft dove for a ball during a scrimmage and banged up his shoulder. The injury wasn’t serious, but did require a bit of rest.

The Pirates are at Elon on Wednesday, and then open the home schedule this weekend with a three-game series against Monmouth.

The jungle should be fired up to open the year!


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04/21/2008 07:07:43 PM


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