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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, June 9, 2008

By Brian Bailey

Omaha still on ECU's agenda

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.

East Carolina’s baseball team arrived in Chapel Hill on Thursday with dreams of Omaha and the College Baseball World Series.

The Pirates limped home late Sunday after being outscored 19-4 in a pair of losses.
North Carolina beat the Pirates 10-1 on Saturday and then 9-3 on Sunday to sweep the Chapel Hill Super Regional.

The disappointing part for everyone, including the players, coaches and fans, is that the games weren’t competitive.

The Pirates had a brief lead in game one after a Brandon Henderson homer, but after that it was all Tar Heels. I think Coach Billy Godwin would agree that his Pirates could certainly play at that level.

East Carolina did play at the level and more in the two regular season games. Both games were close, with the Pirates shutting out the Heels 4-0 in Greenville.

Godwin refused to make any excuses, but the zip just didn’t seem to be there. Maybe the five games in three days in the previous week's Greenville Regional took something out of this team.

The old adage that good pitching beats good hitting rang true again. Even though former D.H. Conley star Alex White had struggled down the stretch, he still has an elite arm. Game two starter Adam Warren was another rock.

The Pirates hit White around pretty good three years ago in the regionals. But on this Saturday, the former Greenville Little League star set a career mark with a dozen strikeouts. In all, Pirate hitters fanned 14 times. That’s 14 of the 27 outs in the game resulting in ECU hitters failing to get the ball in play.

The day turned into a special one for White. When he was finally pulled in the 9th, both North Carolina and ECU fans gave him a standing ovation. White said it especially meant something to see both sets of fans on their feet.

“That’s my hometown. That’s where I’m from,” said White. “There were a lot of people in the stands who cheer for ECU that I know. They have respect for the game and they know what’s going on. I’m glad they were here and that they are the type of people that will do that, cheer for a guy from their hometown.”

It was certainly a class gesture by the many Pirate fans who would have much rather cheered for a big ECU victory.

In game two, the Tar Heels jumped out to the early lead and really never looked back. The game was still somewhat in doubt when Dustin Ackley put it away with a three-run homer in the 6th inning.

That was more then enough for Warren, the former New Bern Bear. Warren scattered eight hits and gave up three runs. Most of that damage was late when the game was pretty much no longer in doubt.

Coach Godwin showed the hurt in his face after the pair of losses. But he also showed a look of determination. Godwin has a plan, and he hopes someday everyone will look back at this super regional loss as part of the process.

“Unfortunately, we have to have experiences such as these,” said Godwin. “I think you fail before you succeed sometimes. The first year we came over and we lost here in the regional, and we bounced back and made it to the championship game last year. This year we push through and win a regional.

"We’ve got a good core of guys coming back. We’ve got a lot of our pitchers who will be back. That’s one of the things I try to emphasize in my tenure at East Carolina, that we have to roll guys out there to give us a shot.”

“I think some of the experiences like this, sometimes I say that a player’s failure is his best feature," Godwin continued. "It hurts, it stings, but I think it’s an important part of growing and maturing as a team and as a program.”

An outstanding group of seniors led by the likes of Brandon Henderson, Ryan Wood, Drew Schieber and Stephen Batts took this program to within a pair of wins of Omaha. That’s as close as the Pirates have come.

Three trips to the Super Regionals have gotten the Pirates close. Omaha, though, will wait for another season.

That’s the toughest part of the end of the season. It’s the finality of it all. Baseball season at East Carolina has always been one of the best parts of the year for me. It starts with frigid February and ends, in a good season, in June.

Someday it’ll end in mid-June in Omaha. That dream is still very much alive at East Carolina.

The Pirates took another step. As long as the players, the coaches and the fans all buy in that Omaha is the goal, it will happen.

Just not this season.

Congratulations, though, to Coach Godwin and his program for a year to remember.


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06/17/2009 01:22:07 AM


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