College Sports in the Carolinas
from the East
Thursday, June 6, 2002
By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer
Unbowed Pirates lock into ambitious dream
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
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
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.”
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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
“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
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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.
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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
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.
<< 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
Kicker Bryan Long of Halifax Academy, who
had a 50-yard field goal last season, also plans to join the Pirates
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.
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02/23/2007 12:58:39 AM