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Pirates Headed to
'Reunion' Regional

ECU climbs back into rankings staff

What a week it was!

And what a weekend is on the way!

After taking down seventh-ranked Houston to win the Conference USA championship, resilient East Carolina finds itself back in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches' Poll (22nd) and the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Rankings (27th).

Now, the Pirates — only days removed from wondering if they would make the final cut for the NCAA field of 64 — are headed straight into a regional drama fit for the big screen.

East Carolina's bid to host a baseball regional in Kinston didn't pan out, but for those who appreciate touching ironies, the Pirates got the next best thing. Three of the four head coaches in the mini-tournament in which they will be participating nurture close ties with one another from player-coach relationships of days gone by.

ECU — which hopes its ALS-stricken coach, Keith LeClair, can find a strategic spot near the playing field for his mobile dugout/van — is slotted in the Clemson, SC, regional with the host Tigers, Elon and Georgia Southern.

Top seed Clemson's skipper, Jack Leggett — whose protégés are creating ever-larger ripples emulating their mentor — was Western Carolina's coach when LeClair starred for the Catamounts. Naturally enough, it was LeClair who inherited the reigns of the WCU program when Leggett reluctantly moved down the road a piece to Clemson in 1991.

If that's not enough to inspire a major sense of poignancy about the regional, the ties deepen to complete a triangle that seems too perfect to have happened by accident — Georgia Southern coach and WCU alumnus Rodney Hennon played two years apiece for for both Leggett and LeClair.

Perhaps the NCAA bureaucrats, who plot key minutia in devising each regional, count more than beans and RPI numbers after all.

ECU, the No. 2 seed, faces a familiar foe in Friday's 2 PM opening round game when it tangles with third-seed Elon. The Pirates and Phoenix split two regular season contests, each winning on their home field.

The Tigers will battle the Georgia Southern Eagles in the night game at 7 PM.

Saturday's action features a clash between the winners and an elimination match between the losers during the daylight hours. In the evening, the loser from the winners bracket game and the victor from the losers bracket pairing will square off to determine which advances to the final day.

On Sunday, the lone unbeaten team from the previous day's face-off between winners will collide with Friday night's conqueror to determine the regional title, with a second game on the slate if necessary to decide the double-elimination event.

02/23/2007 11:21 AM

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