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View from the East
Thursday, April 24, 2003

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Mazey: ECU faces long and winding recruiting road

Coach banks on winning tradition, new stadium to lure Omaha-caliber talent

©2003 Bonesville.net

East Carolina's 7-6 baseball loss to North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Wednesday night was similar to a one-run loss at Texas Christian on Saturday night, the winning run scoring on an error on a bunt in the opposition's final at-bat.

The Pirates have now lost five straight and the chances of a fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament berth appear to be in jeopardy as ECU focuses on regrouping for a three-game series at Louisville this weekend.

There is always the possibility that the Pirates could win the Conference USA Tournament May 21-25 as they did last year to secure the league's automatic berth in the NCAAs, but there's an important difference this year in terms of location.

Last year's league event was played before a supportive crowd at Grainger Stadium in Kinston. This year the Pirates would have to make a league tournament run in New Orleans.

In the short term, the Pirates have got to get on the winning side of the game-deciding plays, and their pitching and hitting need to show up at the same time.

ECU had 13 hits at Chapel Hill on Wednesday night, but six runs wasn't enough for a pitching staff that came into the game with a neat 3.45 earned run average. That's actually better than last years 3.64 team ERA.

Offense has been sporadic for the Pirates, who went into the UNC game hitting .265 as a team. The Pirates hit .294 in compiling a 43-20-1 record last season. ECU had a .324 team average in a 47-13 season in 2001.

"I really thought coming out of fall practice we were going to be a pretty good offensive team," said first-year head coach Randy Mazey. "We've shown flashes of it but we haven't been very consistent offensively. We tried a lot of different lineups early and used a lot of guys. Now we're pretty well settled on the nine or 10 guys who we feel give us the best chance to score runs. Some days they do, some days they don't."

Its one of those things that's just hard to figure out.

Midweek games with UNC on Wednesday night and at N.C. State next Wednesday night are meaningful but coaches still save their best arms for conference games on the weekend.

"Conference is everything," Mazey said. "The midweek games of course are bragging rights for the fans and its a lot of pride for the players playing against their buddies, and its a recruiting war, too, for the coaches. So these games are hugely important but we're not going to sacrifice conference games by pitching a weekend guy in the middle of the week.

"Another value of the midweek games is that they help hitters stay sharp.

"If you're in the groove, its a good opportunity to stay in the groove," Mazey said. "The more you play, the more you want to hit. Pitching-wise, it really gets deep into your staff and we've got some injuries on the staff right now. We're trying to save guys. We're trying to pitch younger guys.

"Its good offensively, but it really tests your pitching staff."

In the long term, recruiting to a new $8 million, 3,000-seat stadium is the key for ECU. The talent level is down because former coach Keith LeClair was limited in what he could do in terms of recruiting after it was confirmed that he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in the summer of 2001.

Good players make good coaches and good programs.

"No question about it," Mazey said. "Our philosophy is that we're going to try to outwork everybody out there. We're going to see more players and recruit more guys. When we talk to kids — and Allen Osborne (first-year assistant) does a great job of this — the kids sense our commitment to winning. That's why we've been successful getting good kids.

"Its going to take a couple or three years of recruiting to that new stadium until we can get 25 guys who can carry us to Omaha (site of the College World Series), which is our goal. Its going to take a lot of work and hustling.

"These kids here are not the most talented group in the world but over the last four years they've really learned how to win. Winning is kind of in their blood. ... We add some great talent to that chemistry and that attitude, then Omaha is attainable."

Mazey and his staff will range far and wide to find that talent. In 1998, ECU had just three out of state players. This season there are 15 from out of state. When Mazey was an ECU assistant in 1998, he is credited with helping recruit players such as Lee Delfino (Ontario, Canada) as well as Nick Schnabel, Erik Bakich and James Molinari from various far flung locales. The contributions of those players were essential in rebuilding the program.

"There are no limits," Mazey said. "We have budget constraints but we have no geographical limits. Coach Osborne just came back from a 2 1/2 week trip to California, Chicago and, actually, he was recruiting in Omaha believe it or not. We'll go anywhere to get players and we feel like we've got a great product here at East Carolina.

"If people would come and see our program, spend time on our campus and talk to our players then they'll understand that it's a great opportunity for them."

Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.

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

02/22/2007 11:53:44 PM
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