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Pirate Notebook No. 386
Sunday, June 6, 2009

Denny O'Brien

Another game, another dicey spot

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

CHAPEL HILL — It’s not like today won’t be familiar territory for East Carolina. Heck, the Pirates were in a considerably worse position six days ago.

After losing 12-2 to South Carolina last Saturday, ECU was tasked with winning three elimination games in two days. The Pirates were running low on good starting pitching and the bullpen was growing razor thin.

By comparison, rebounding from a 10-1 loss to North Carolina and facing potentially two must-win games doesn’t seem that imposing.

“I just reminded my players that a week ago at this time we were in the same situation,” Pirates coach Billy Godwin said after Saturday's super regional opener at Boshamer Stadium. “We’ve got experience playing in elimination games and that’s where we’re at. We’re in an elimination game. We’ll have to come out and play well tomorrow.

"I’ve got a lot of faith in these guys and their character. They’ll come out and play as hard as they possibly can.”

And you have to figure they’ll have more success considering North Carolina ace Alex White won’t be on the mound. Perhaps the most telling statistic yesterday can be found in the box score of the starting pitchers, which was about as one-sided as you’ll find in college baseball.

In five-plus innings of work, the Pirates’ Seth Maness failed to record a strikeout, while White fanned a career high 12 for the Heels.

ECU’s inability to put the ball in play during key situations early proved costly. Meanwhile the Tar Heels showed on several occasions the difference the aluminum bat can make just by making contact.

On a day that showcased a match-up of statistical titans — ECU’s loaded lineup against North Carolina's powerful arms — it was the Tar Heels’ excuse-me hitting that provided the offensive fireworks. The Tar Heels dinked and dunked their way for seven hits and seven runs in the sixth inning, eventually chasing Maness from the game.

The seven-run explosion was highlighted by a bunt, bleeder, and a bloop. There was even a key error by second baseman Ryan Wood that plated a run.

“It’s frustrating, of course,” Maness said. “But you really can’t harp on just one pitch. If you do that, you’re just going to start making bad pitches.

“You really have got to have a short-term memory and just go after the next guy, try to put it behind you. When they do (bloop) a couple of them in a row, it is frustrating. But that’s part of the game.”

Just like quick recoveries have become a part of East Carolina’s season. The Pirates did it in improbable fashion in the NCAA Regional last week, just like they did on numerous other occasions throughout the year.

It won’t be easy this time. Of course it never is. Adam Warren is scheduled to start for Carolina, and it’s no stretch to suggest that he’d be the ace on most pitching staffs around the country.

But this East Carolina team has faced its share of challenges, and passed them with flying colors. The Pirates just can’t afford to whiff 14 times tomorrow and waste early-game opportunities like they did Saturday.

“We had plenty of opportunities today,” senior first baseman Brandon Henderson said. “Whether it’s with one out or two outs, we’ve got to come up big.”

“They had their opportunities and they got some big hits. A few balls fell in for them and we couldn’t get many to fall in. But the beauty is we’re not done yet.”

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06/17/2009 01:22:03 AM

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