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The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, March 14, 2012

By Bethany Bradsher

Fans' focus shifts to diamonds

By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.

Just like the weather has been bouncing frenetically between winter and spring, the Pirate Nation has also been in a state of limbo lately. Just last week East Carolina baseball and softball had started off strong, but the basketball teams were still competing and moving toward the perennial hopefulness of their conference tournaments.

This week, those high hoops hopes have been shelved for next year, with all of the postseason invitations distributed to teams other than the Pirates. But the bright side of that closed chapter is this: The weather has decided that it really is baseball and softball season, and those teams are ready to prove that they deserve the Pirate Nation’s undivided attention.

Tuesday night was a perfect example of this renewed focus, both in the weather and on the diamonds. At 5 p.m., as the temperatures inched toward 80 degrees on a perfect spring day, both East Carolina squads were doing their best to advance their team goals and do what it takes to still be around when the postseason arrives.

In the short term, it wasn’t the kind of sports night that energizes a Pirates fan. The Diamond Bucs fell to Virginia Commonwealth 18-11 in the first start of pitcher Jake Harris in nearly a year. The Lady Pirates went to Chapel Hill to face the Tar Heels for the first time in three years and were defeated 4-2.

But just like many of the plants that will soon brighten the spring are still tiny now, the bright spots for softball and baseball are still seedlings with plenty of potential. A few of those encouraging developments from the young 2012 season, by the numbers:

  • 25 — The national ranking the baseball team reached last week in the NCAA Basketball RPI standings. The championship they won at the DRASH Alabama Classic last weekend undoubtedly helped ECU inch into the national spotlight.

  • 12 — The number of runs scored by the Pirate softball team against Creighton on March 10 at the Diamond Devil Invitational in Tempe, AZ. The game came near the end of the Pirates’ weeklong Western Spring Break tour to California and Arizona, and it proved that their offensive strength is alive and well. Sophomore Kristi Oshiro, an emerging star for ECU, hit a grand-slam for her first career home run in the contest.

  • .636 — Sophomore Drew Reynolds’ batting average last week, when over four games he hit a home run and 2 RBIs and recorded multi-hit games in all three Pirate victories at the Alabama tournament.

  • 5 — The number of home runs so far this season by senior Suzanne Riggs, a D.H. Conley product who also has a team-high 13 walks this season. Riggs turned in one of the Pirates’ two runs against UNC-Chapel Hill on Tuesday night with a one-run shot, and she seems locked in to the idea of putting together a memorable senior season.

  • 4 — The number of consecutive home baseball games in store for the Pirate Nation over the next week — a three-game series against Penn State Friday, Saturday and Sunday and a Tuesday night matchup with N.C. State that is sure to bring out the Jungle faithful in droves.

In other parts of the state, brackets and fast breaks still dominate, but in the East it’s the season to sit outside and revel in double plays and rally caps. The thermometer confirms that it’s the right time to focus on two teams with state-of-the-art stadiums and high expectations.

Conference USA schedules are just ahead, and the Pirate Nation is dialed into the diamonds.

E-mail Bethany Bradsher

PAGE UPDATED 03/14/12 03:11 AM.

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