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View from the East
Thursday, June 6, 2002

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Unbowed Pirates lock into ambitious dream

©2002 Bonesville.net

VIEW FROM THE EAST OUT-TAKES:
2003 'To Do' list includes the BIG item...
Hindsight: An overachieving season...
LeClair should remain employed by ECU...
Draft: Brainy southpaw faces decision...
Walk-ons target Pirate football roles...
Injury threatens Herring's hoops future...

College
World
Series
June 14-22, 2002
Rosenblatt Stadium
Omaha, Nebraska

College World Series
Brackets, Schedule, TV Line-Up... More...

Pirate Baseball Super Page...

- CWS brackets, schedule, TV info...
- Luck stays with Irish in Tallahassee...
- Palmetto state sends two to Omaha...
- Pirates seeking answers for 2003...
- Super Regionals: Day Two Recaps...
- Super Regionals: Day One Recaps...
- Super Regionals: Capsule Matchups...
- MLB drafts 19 from Conference USA...
- Super Regionals: Preview/Matchups...
- Pirates' eyes fixed on 2003 prize...
- Freshmen duo reaps national honors...
- Pirate battery scooped up in draft...
- Narron nabs Verizon Academic Honor...
- Omaha scripted in Pirates' future...
- Bonesville's teams trimmed to three...
- Super-Regional Pairings & Sites...
- NCAA Regionals Wrap & Headlines...
- Baseball News Poll Through 06/02...
- Baseball America Poll Through 06/02...
- Omaha scratched from ECU itinerary...
- Houston, 'Cocks, Tigers advance...
- Pirates shake off heat to advance...
- Clemson rides error, HR to finals...
- Day two: C-USA, Carolinas recaps...
- LeClair's boys quash big Elon rally...
- Emotions run deep for Leggett...
- Day one: C-USA, Carolinas recaps...
- WCU ties: Leggett & Hennon Q & A...
- Exuberant Elon will face Narron...
- Inspiration pays ECU another visit...
- Four leagues dominate NCAA field...
- Pirates going to 'Reunion' regional...
- A first: Louisville gets NCAA berth...
- Surprised Dogs snag slot vs. U of L...
- Pairings impacted by travel, safety...
- NCAA regional sites and seedings...
- NCAA region-by-region schedule...
- Pirates fought for title and more...
- ECU climbs back into Coaches Poll...
- Pirates ranked by Baseball News...

- C-USA Tourney Wrap & Headlines...

Mission unchanged

East Carolina assistant baseball coach Kevin McMullan met with members of the team individually on Monday and Tuesday and his ultimate message was to the point.

“I told them, ‘Before you get out of that seat, you should be focused on Omaha in 2003,’ ” McMullan said.

Getting to the College World Series in Nebraska remains the steadfast goal of the ECU program.

A number of Pirates players will be performing in summer leagues to refine their skills. ECU first baseman Darryl Lawhorn, the Conference USA freshman of the year and C-USA Tournament MVP, is playing for his hometown Wilmington (N.C.) Sharks of the Coastal Plains League, as is his brother, Trevor, a standout at Barton College.

But McMullan doesn’t expect Darryl Lawhorn to play the entire season.

“He’s on a two week contract,” McMullan said. “And that’s because he’s involved with an academic course that he can take on the Internet. He needs to get back to campus and get in the weight room.”

Incidentally, the elaborate new strength and conditioning center is finally being utilized by ECU athletes.

Darryl Lawhorn shared the national freshman of the year award with pitcher Phillip Humber and first baseman Vincent Sinisi, both of Rice University, in an announcement made on Wednesday.

Lawhorn hit .416 with 19 home runs and 68 RBIs. He set school records for hits (104) and total bases (179).

Pirate pitcher Greg Bunn will play for the Wilson Tobs in the Coastal Plains League. Lawhorn and Bunn were each named to the Louisville Slugger Freshman All America team.

Bunn, who played at Wake Forest-Rolesville High, had seven saves in 21 appearances with a 3.26 ERA. He held opposing batter to a staff-low .159 batting average with 25 strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings pitched.

The Tobs play at Fleming Stadium in Wilson, where ECU hosted a regional in 2001, and the renovated stadium is now home to the new North Carolina Baseball Museum.

Shortstop Justin Phillips, who played on the high school level at Greenville Rose, is also on the Wilson roster. Playing on the CPL team in Edenton are pitcher Kevin Rhodes, catcher Adam Witter and outfielder Brian Cavanaugh.

The CPL uses wooden bats which lets players adjust to pro equipment and also allows pro scouts to make more accurate evaluations of players’ potential.

Pitcher Brian McCullen and outfielder Ryan Norwood are on rosters in the Shenandoah Valley League. Second baseman Nick Wedemeyer will play in the Southern Collegiate Baseball League in the Greensboro area. Infielder Mark Minicozzi will play for the Delaware Gulls of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League.

All of the Pirates playing in summer leagues are freshmen, except for Wedemeyer, a sophomore.

“We don’t send a lot of guys out to play in summer leagues, especially pitchers who have pitched a lot of innings,” McMullan said. “We let them stay here, lift weights and get ahead academically in summer school. The younger kids who need at-bats or pitchers who need innings, we let them go play.”

In retrospect, expectations exceeded     << Top of Page  >>

McMullan was asked to put the 2002 season into perspective, a year in which the Pirates won the university’s first C-USA team title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament despite the diminished role of head coach Keith LeClair as he dealt with the effects of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

“I think this group overachieved, considering we lost 70 percent of our offense from last year and some of the guys who had experience didn’t have the years they would have liked,” said McMullan, who was in his third season as an ECU staff member. “We still could have gotten to Omaha. It’s about doing the right things at the right time and this group did that.”

McMullan likened the season to a marathon.

“You’re going to have good miles and bad miles,” said the former Indiana of Pennsylvania player and coach. “We had 43 good miles (wins). ... There were different times this team could have folded but they didn’t make excuses. They put their foot on the accelerator and went forward. That says a lot about the group of kids we have.”

ECU should retain LeClair's services     << Top of Page  >>

The health of Coach LeClair will be addressed with the utmost sensitivity to him and his family. It’s an extremely difficult situation but it simply has to be done for the future good of the program.

LeClair should remain under contract with full benefits and become a special consultant to the athletics department, and he should have strategic input, if possible, to athletics director Mike Hamrick in a search for a new baseball coach.

With McMullan and pitching coach Tommy Eason highly involved with the current players on the field during the 2002 season, the recruiting process was at a virtual lull. Four players were signed in the preseason including left-handed pitcher and outfielder Nate Logan of Greenville Rose, the son of Pirates football coach Steve Logan.

McMullan said ECU would like to bring in a frontline pitcher this summer, either a junior college talent or a transfer.

George Whitfield, a veteran baseball man who had served as administrative assistant at ECU, will be athletics director at Pitt County’s new South Central High, which presents another void.

LeClair was already widely respected for guiding the Pirates to three consecutive No. 1 regional seedings before Lou Gehrig’s disease began to take its toll. The courage and faith with which he has dealt with his plight is indicative of true greatness.

It is my hope that someone with the resources would step forward on the financial drive for the new baseball stadium and make a naming gift for the facility on his behalf. His contributions to ECU should have that degree of permanence.

“Coach LeClair made it easier for us as coaches by his perspective on the situation,” McMullan said. “He said in January, ‘These guys (assistants) will coach you. Coach McMullan will make decisions, Coach Eason will run the staff and we’re still going to talk.’ His approach made our jobs easier.”

It’s been said that you find out more about people’s character in difficult times than when things are going well. God bless Coach LeClair with healing and comfort.

Draft choices     << Top of Page  >>

Junior left-hander Sam Narron was drafted in the 15th round by the Texas Rangers, which his uncle, Jerry, manages, but McMullan’s call is that the 6-foot-8 ace of the staff will return for his senior season.

McMullan said 15th round bonus money could range from $15,000 to $50,000, with the Rangers indicating they will be more frugal in the era following a $250 million contract to Alex Rodriguez.

“In talking with Sam, I’d be shocked if he wasn’t back,” McMullan said. “He’s a straight-A student who is very focused on his education.”

Narron is majoring in biology and was named ECU's male scholar-athlete of the year and also earned Conference USA's baseball scholar-athlete award.

Pirates catcher Clayton McCullough, a senior, was drafted in the 22nd round by the Cleveland Indians.

Football walk-ons     << Top of Page  >>

Wide receiver Jamaal Dickens of Wilson Beddingfield has decided to attend ECU this fall and accept an invitation to walk-on to the football team. Dickens, who plans to redshirt his freshman year in Greenville, chose ECU over scholarship offers from Western Carolina and Elizabeth City State.

Dickens cited his reason for picking ECU was to be close to his family. He was a first-team All-Big Eight 3-A Conference pick and finished 2001 with 59 catches for 1,133 yards and 15 touchdowns in 10 games. He has been selected for the East-West All-Star in July in Greensboro.

Kicker Bryan Long of Halifax Academy, who had a 50-yard field goal last season, also plans to join the Pirates program.

Vince Logan, the older son of Pirates coach Steve Logan, is listed as a holder on the spring roster. Vince was a reserve outfielder for the baseball team.

Herring has surgery     << Top of Page  >>

The career of basketball forward Jason Herring may be over before it started. Herring, who progressed academically this past school year to the extent that he could be placed on scholarship, had surgery this week to repair the ACL and MCL on a knee as a result of a car accident in New Hanover County in the early morning hours of May 26. Football lineman Brandon Pope was reportedly driving the vehicle.

Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.

Click here to dig into Al Myatt's Bonesville archives.

02/23/2007 12:58:39 AM
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