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From the Anchor Desk
Thursday, May 22, 2008

By Brian Bailey

Worst case scenario at hand

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.

Watch for more columns by Brian Bailey from Turchin Stadium in New Orleans, site of the Conference USA Baseball Tournament.



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East Carolina had hoped to get another shot at regular season champ Rice in the second round of Conference USA tournament in New Orleans.

Not this way, though.

The only thing worse then a heartbreaking 5-4, 10-inning loss to Houston in the tournament's opening game is what happened in the day's second game: No. 8 seed UAB stunned top seed Rice.

Now the Pirates have to beat the Owls Thursday morning to continue on in the tournament.

The glass is either half empty or half full. The optimist says it’s certainly easier to beat Rice once in the tournament then it is to beat them twice just to advance to the championship game.

That title match up seems like light years away as we sit here in New Orleans on Wednesday afternoon. The Pirates spent their morning in a classic battle with Houston.

The game was certainly East Carolina’s to win. The Pirates took a 3-2 lead in the seventh inning after a Kyle Roller blast that cleared the outfield net and left the stadium. Roller had three of the Pirates' four RBI’s in the game.

Houston pushed across a run in the eighth to tie the game. After a scoreless ninth, the Pirates regained the lead in the tenth.

With two outs in the top of the tenth, Corey Kemp walked. He scored on a Brandon Henderson double that should have been the game winner.

The ECU bullpen fell apart in the tenth. The Pirates walked a batter, hit a batter and gave up a pair of hits. Houston rallied for the 5-4 win.

“I think it’s pretty easy,” said a distraught Billy Godwin afterwards. “You can’t walk the leadoff guy in the last inning and hit a guy. If you start giving things away, you’re not going to win close games like that, and that’s as simple as it is.”

Coach Godwin couldn’t hide his disappointment.

“We take the lead and then we come up and walk the leadoff guy and hit a guy," he emphasized. "You’ve got to win the freebie war and we didn’t win that. It’s disappointing. It was a well played game, but I mean, at the end of the game, that's when you have to be at your best.”

Offensively, the Pirates really struggled at the top of the lineup. ECU's top four hitters were a collective 0-17 on the afternoon. Harrison Eldridge and Stephen Batts were both 0-5. That never happens. Those two players are just too good to ever combine for 0-10.

The bright spot offensively was Roller’s three RBI’s. Roller, Jamie Ray, Dustin Harrington and Brandon Henderson all had two hits for the Pirates.

“I’ve been struggling all year, really,” said Roller when asked about his home run. “I just told myself I was going to go up to the plate and be relaxed, and be short and quick to the ball. He threw a fastball in, and I just kind of turned on it.”

Justin Bristow will carry the Pirates' hopes to the mound on Thursday. It’s another early start time, with the Pirates facing the Owls and likely starter Ryan Berry at 10 a.m.

Berry beat ECU in the opening game of their series in Houston on April 18th. Berry pitched 5.2 innings, giving up 2 earned runs on 8 hits and a couple of walks as the Owls won that game 10-3.

Bristow pitched 4 innings, giving up 5 earned runs on nine hits and a couple of walks in the Pirates' 7-1 loss to Rice in the third game of the April series.

There’s certainly a reason they play the games.

Rice is beatable. Just ask UAB!


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05/22/2008 03:18:47 AM


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