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Pirate Notebook No. 385
Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Denny O'Brien

Pirates' lifeline came from the ‘pen

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

GREENVILLE — Devin Harris may have crowned himself the Prince of Pitt County, but his coronation wasn’t possible without the assistance of a capable royal court.

In East Carolina’s dramatic 10-9 victory over South Carolina in the NCAA Regional championship game Monday night – perhaps the biggest victory on the biggest stage in Pirates’ baseball history – Harris and slugger Kyle Roller commanded the biggest spotlight.

But it was in the shadows where East Carolina bested Southeastern Conference power USC.

With the Pirates playing their fifth game in three days head coach Billy Godwin had to take a patchwork approach with his pitching staff. ECU’s rotation was largely used up, leaving Godwin mostly with mid-week hands and spot relievers.

Not how you ideally would set your pitching strategy for a championship bout.

“I thought that was huge,” Godwin said about the effort of his bullpen. “I think that everybody understood that we were depleted coming into this. We were trying to piece together our staff.

“With Bailey (Daniels), we talked about just keeping us in the game. I still felt when we were down 6-0 that we were in the game. They just pitched on heart and adrenaline. For Michael Wright to stand out there at the end of the game and keep us in the game as a freshman was absolutely outstanding. He showed tremendous character and poise.”

And maturity.

To tote an 8.18 ERA to the hill against an offense with South Carolina’s pop would have been enough to make most freshman pitchers quiver. To do it with a championship and Super Regional bid on the line – and not melt under the spotlight – seemed as improbable as the Pirates clawing their way back from a 6-0 deficit.

But thanks to the bulldog effort from the ECU bullpen, the Pirates were able to mount the comeback. While the ECU hitters were chipping away at the lead, Bailey Daniels, Seth Simmons, and Mike Wright were recording outs.

Through seven innings of work, that trio surrendered only three runs, two of which came off a two-run blast.

“Again, going back to Michael Wright, for a freshman to step out there,” Godwin said, “We think he’s going to be really good in our program. If somebody would have told me a month ago that Michael Wright would be on the mound in front of 5,000 screaming Pirate fans with the opportunity to advance, I probably wouldn’t have taken that bet.”

Perhaps on most occasions, that scenario would have been considered a major gamble. But with a bid to this weekend’s NCAA Super Regional on the line, it was about the only hand left for Godwin to play.

And it scored an improbable jackpot.

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06/17/2009 01:22:04 AM

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