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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, May 19, 2008

By Brian Bailey

Perfect week positions ECU for host role

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.


Replay Monday night's Brian Bailey Show with guests BILLY GODWIN and RUSS ANDERSON. Eastern North Carolina's longest running sports radio call-in show airs each Monday night at 7 p.m. on Pirate Radio 1250-AM and 930-AM.
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Bailey: Perfect week positions ECU for host role
BVL: Pirates advance in national polls
O'Brien: Pirates need deep C-USA run
BVL: Pirates hijack league crown
BVL: Conference USA Tournament Brackets
BVL: Final Conference USA Baseball Standings
BVL Box Score: East Carolina 13, Memphis 2
BVL Box Score: East Carolina 9, Memphis 1
Myatt: Hudson left Big Ten for big challenge
BVL Box Score: East Carolina 9, Memphis 4
Batten: Hard-hitting Johnson joins Class of 2010
Mumau: Defense-minded Morales looks to add skills

Just last week, former East Carolina coach Gary Overton spelled it out for us. “Coach O” is on the NCAA baseball tournament committee.

Overton said last week that the Pirates had to do one of two things to improve their odds of hosting an NCAA Regional. They either had to either win the Conference USA regular season title or take home the tournament championship.

Coach Billy Godwin has preached the same sermon all year long. He just wanted his Pirates to take care of business and let the chips land where they land.

East Carolina opened its final week of the regular season by blasting UNC-Wilmington on the road. The Pirates then returned home to host Memphis for a three-game series.

Godwin says his club was pressing in the first game against the Tigers. The Pirates entered the weekend a game behind Rice for the regular season championship.

East Carolina trailed 4-0 until the 7th inning. Memphis lefty Brach Davis totally frustrated the Pirate hitters all night. Finally Dustin Harrington broke through with a leadoff home run. Two batters later Trent Whitehead pulled a shot down the right field line for a three-run home run.

That shot opened the door, and East Carolina never looked back in the series.

The home run was not only crucial to the game; it proved critical on the road to the regular season championship.

While the Pirates were rallying on Thursday night, UAB was opening itsr series with Rice with an upset victory. The Pirates and Owls were tied for the league lead with two games to go.

Friday was a wash for the frontrunners, with both East Carolina and Rice coming out victorious.

Saturday was a much different story. East Carolina did its part, scoring early and often in rolling to another win to clinch at least a share of the title.

The Pirates weren’t getting much help from Birmingham early. Rice took a 9-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth. From there, though, the Blazers erupted for 14 runs in their last four at bats and beat the Owls 15-12.

The combination of Pirate wins and Owl losses gave East Carolina its first Conference USA baseball championship since 2004.

“This is just the beginning,” said Coach Godwin. “That’s the attitude I want our team to have. There is still a lot of baseball to play. We’ve got bigger goals and we need to go into the Conference USA tournament and play well.”

Godwin knows his club is in the mix for possibly hosting that first-ever regional at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

“Our resume is what it is,” said Godwin. “We can only control what we can do. We have played well down the stretch and we have beaten some good teams.”

“I certainly think Conference USA is an elite baseball league. We did win a regular season championship in Conference USA. We need to go to the tournament and play well. We know that. We can’t go there and fall on our face.

"I think things are lined up that we should be under strong consideration for hosting," Godwin added, "especially with our facilities and our fan base. This is why this stadium was built.”

East Carolina opens with Central Florida on Wednesday. The Pirates swept the Knights in Greenville this year.

“They aren’t the same team now that we saw earlier,” said Godwin. “They’ve really gotten better throughout the season.”

There were some fireworks in the series finale between East Carolina and UCF. Stephen Batts hit a monster home run and flipped his bat to try and fire up his team. Batts actually fired up both teams, and there were fires breaking out all over the place.

The best argument was by the UCF dugout, when East Carolina first base coach Tommy Atkinson and former Pirate and current UCF assistant coach Cliff Godwin went nose to nose. Cooler heads did prevail and there were no ejections. Still, it was great baseball drama on a Sunday morning in Greenville.

Hopefully, there won’t be any drama early in the Conference USA tournament. The Pirates will most likely go with Chris Heston in the opening game.

“That’s what we’re thinking right now,” said Godwin. “We’re going to look at match-ups, but Heston has won a bunch of opening games for us this year.”

It all starts Wednesday afternoon in Hattiesburg. Championship Sunday includes the announcement of the host sights for the NCAA tournament.

The Pirates are close. Hosting an NCAA regional is certainly in sight.

With each win the Pirates get that much closer to calling Clark-LeClair Stadium home for the NCAA Regionals.


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05/19/2009 12:35:21 AM


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