College Sports in the Carolinas
from the East
Thursday, April 24, 2003
By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News &
Mazey: ECU faces long and
winding recruiting road
Coach banks on winning
tradition, new stadium to lure Omaha-caliber talent
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
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
"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
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
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."
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