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SURVEYING THE LANDSCAPE
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Pirate Notebook No. 384
Monday, June 1, 2009

Denny O'Brien

House that LeClair built will be rocking

By Denny O'Brien
©2009 Bonesville.net
All Rights Reserved.

Maybe this is what Keith LeClair envisioned when he left his alma mater for East Carolina: An NCAA Regional championship game in front of more than 4,500 screaming Pirateheads. In Greenville. On the ECU campus.

You have to admit that it required a visionary to script that scene when LeClair arrived prior to the 1998 season. Thatís when the Pirates called Harrington Field home, a facility unfit for any school that aspires to have a Top 25 program.

But when East Carolina faces South Carolina tonight, it will do so in the stadium that LeClair built, a place where he laid the foundation for its construction but never had the opportunity to coach. Itís a venue that has an unofficial capacity of over 5,500, but tonight will sound more like a crowd of 55,000.

Those in attendance will witness the most significant baseball game ever to be played in Greenville. Win and the Pirates will head to Chapel Hill for what could be the most significant series in this stateís history.

First the Pirates must finish what on Saturday appeared to be an improbable task. They must complete the uphill climb of navigating the loserís bracket and taking the rubber match against a Southeastern Conference power.

Now the question is which East Carolina team will face the Gamecocks tonight? Will it be the one that was thoroughly pounded by South Carolina on Saturday, or the one that built an 8-0 lead Sunday evening and resiliently withstood a furious USC rally?

Better yet, who will Pirates coach Billy Godwin send to the mound for the deciding game of this unpredictable regional?

With ECU playing its fifth game in three days, and Godwin fresh out of his regular starters, the Pirates might have to rely on four or five arms to hurl them to a Super Regional next weekend. And whichever four or five take the hill will have to deal some of the best stuff of their collegiate careers.

Because South Carolina is as dangerous an offensive club as East Carolina has faced all year, a fact reinforced by the last three innings of last nightís nail-biter.

Though the Pirates have the firm advantage of playing at home, itís tempting to consider them the underdog. On paper, and perhaps even mentally, they probably are.

Playing five games in five days can take a serious mental and physical toll, but to do it in three days is almost uncharted waters.

Still, given the way the Pirates fought their way through two elimination games ó one of which they trailed by four and the other in which they played a team that previously embarrassed them ó you have to like their chances. Itís clear that this is a team filled with grit, and anything is possible in a game dictated by aluminum bats.

Even so, tonight clearly comes down to pitching. The team that makes the fewest mistakes with pitch location ó and subsequently keeps the ball in the park ó is likely the one that makes it to Chapel Hill.

That the Pirates are even in this scenario is improbable enough. And if the Pirates win, this weekend should be remembered as one of the most heroic in ECU baseball history.

It would be fitting for such a scenario to unfold in the stadium that Coach LeClair built. I just wish he could be here to see it.

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06/01/2009 01:59:45 AM

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