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View from the East
Thursday, April 17, 2003

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Advantage Heels while ace hurlers stay on ice

©2003 Bonesville.net

One sort of peculiar aspect of college baseball is that even though you may play a big rival midweek, the best starters are saved for conference play on the weekend. So it was at East Carolina’s Harrington Field on Wednesday night.

Capacity is listed at 2,500. Attendance for the matchup pitting ECU against visiting ACC neighbor North Carolina was 3,058 — the biggest crowd of the season for the Pirates.

ECU went to junior left-hander Ashley Capps and the tone was set early as UNC shortstop Chad Prosser, the second batter to face Capps, had a home run for a 1-0 Tar Heels lead.

Capps settled down until the fourth when he served up a home run off the scoreboard by Jeremy Cleveland to lead off the inning. Sean Farrell and Sammy Hewitt followed with hits for the Heels and that was the end of the night for Capps.

Neal Sears came in and got the count to 0-2 on Tar Heels catcher Chris Iannetta, who was supposed to be bunting on 0-1 with runners at first and second. He got to swing away after a called second strike.

“With one strike, he (UNC coach Mike Fox) wanted me to get a bunt down,” Iannetta said. “It was a slider. I thought it was way off the plate. The umpire had been variable on the outside corner all day and he called it a strike right there.

“So I just kind of battled. I felt like he couldn’t overpower me with a fast ball. I fought off some sliders and he finally hung one over the plate.”

That one landed in “The Jungle.” It stayed there briefly before it was thrown back onto the field. But the damage had been done. That swing gave the Tar Heels a 5-0 lead, which they expanded to 8-0 before ECU provided some late excitement and cut the final margin to 8-4 with the help of two solo homers by Jake Smith, who came off the bench for two productive at-bats.

Carolina started freshman right-hander Matt Danford, who pitched five scoreless innings with ample support.

“A freshman — a tough environment — he pitched well,” Fox said.

Pirates coach Randy Mazey felt his pitchers didn’t rise to the occasion. ECU scored four runs and its team earned run average going into the game was 3.03.

“Four runs on eight hits — that’s a better offensive output than we usually have,” Mazey said. “We’ve just been winning those games. ... I don’t think it was an offensive thing so much as it was a pitching thing tonight. When you pitch against a team that’s better than you, you’ve got to pitch over your head. You’ve got to be better than you normally are and we weren’t that tonight.”

The good news is that the Pirates have their top arms available for a weekend series at Texas Christian. The Pirates and the Horned Frogs are each 10-5 in Conference USA, one game behind Southern Miss, which is 11-4.

“We’re only one game out of first place in the conference but we’re two games out of seventh place,” said the first-year Pirates coach. “So we have to play good this weekend to stay in the race.”

Davey Penny (4-2, 1.92 ERA) is expected to start on Friday at 7 p.m. at TCU. Will Brinson (3-1, 4.38) will get the nod on Saturday at 7 p.m..

Mazey said freshman Jason Neitz (1-1, 2.66) could start the 2 p.m. game on Sunday.

“We haven’t really talked about that yet but he’s probably the leading candidate,” Mazey said.

Darryl Lawhorn returned to action against the Tar Heels after missing a 6-3 win at Campbell on Tuesday night.

Mazey said John Poppert started at catcher against UNC because of his defensive ability and the Tar Heels’ ability to run. But Smith averted a shutout in the seventh with a solo shot to straight-away center in a pinch hitting assignment.

“That’s his seventh home run now in limited at-bats (68),” Mazey said. “He’s done some good things offensively. Poppert’s the defensive guy and Jake’s the offensive guy. Carolina runs a lot so we went with Poppert to slow down their running game a little bit. Jake’s a quality guy. We got a lot of energy from guys off the bench.

“Five of our hits came off the bench. That’s how you get off the bench. You get an opportunity like that and you do well and earn your playing time that way. Those guys gave us a lot tonight.”

Coach Earl Smith

Earl Smith is a former baseball coach at Campbell and East Carolina and placidly watched the two programs play on Tuesday night at Taylor Field in Buies Creek from a lawn chair near the first base dugout.

“This is only the second game I’ve been to in the last two years,” said Smith, who will be inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame later this year. “My neighbor from Fayetteville brought me up here.”

Smith and his neighbor left after eight innings.

“Somebody asked me who I was pulling for, Campbell or East Carolina,” Smith said. “I told ’em I was pulling for both of ’em.”

The score was tied 3-3 when the venerable coach left. The Pirates scored three times in the ninth for a 6-3 win as ECU closer Greg Bunn struck out three in the ninth although the Camels managed two base runners.

Football notes

Former ECU player Dwayne Ledford, who made the transition from the defensive front to the offensive line during his Pirates career, is playing for the Rhein Fire in NFL Europe. ... The Liberty Bowl matching the Conference USA champion against the Mountain West champion is at 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 31. Call (901) 795-7700 for tickets. ... Woody Schmidt, who averaged 47.5 yards per punt in the Purple-Gold game, is a transfer from Penn State. 

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02/22/2007 11:53:43 PM
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