College Sports in the Carolinas
from the East
Monday, June 2, 2003
By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News &
Rollercoaster season sets
stage for return to fast track
At its best in the 2003 baseball season, East Carolina was
good enough to beat the nation’s elite. At its worst, it was bedeviled by
cold bats, shallow pitching or both.
The Pirates exemplified their upside by
knocking off Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament
champion Georgia Tech 10-3 to stave off elimination in the
NCAA regional at Russ Chandler Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday. The Yellow
Jackets were the No. 3 national seed for the NCAA event.
A pair of defeats sandwiched around that victory
demonstrated the Pirates' vulnerabilities. ECU's offense was a no-show
in a 4-0 loss to South Carolina in
the regional opener and the Pirates simply ran out of effective pitching
in a 9-4 season-ending loss to Stetson.
When the ingredients came together, ECU was as good as ever
this season, but there was discernibly more variation in the team’s
competitive level than in recent years.
The battle of former coach Keith LeClair with the effects of
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis limited recruiting over the last two years and
the depth of talent in the program took a hit as a result. The silver lining
of the situation is that first-year coach Randy Mazey is a former LeClair
assistant and has a reputation as a proven recruiter.
Mazey was on ECU’s staff in 1998 and recruited players such
as Eric Bakich, Lee Delfino, Jason Mandryk, Nick Schnabel and Chad Tracy.
The Pirates have even more to attract potential players now than in Mazey’s
first stint in Greenville.
“In the last four or five years, expectations for the
program have been raised,” said Mazey, who achieved win No. 100 as a college
head coach against the Yellow Jackets. “The bar has been set high and that’s
where we want it. A couple more recruiting classes, a new stadium coming and
going to our fifth straight regional will help us meet those expectations.”
ECU is on an unprecedented roll in terms of postseason play.
The Pirates’ most consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament prior to the
current streak was from 1989 to 1991 when ECU made three straight trips and
produced a combined postseason record of 2-6 during that time.
From 1999 to present, the Pirates have a 10-10 record in
postseason play. That includes ECU’s only regional championship in 2001 when
the Pirates went 3-0 at Wilson’s Fleming Stadium with wins over
Maryland-Baltimore County, South Florida and Winthrop.
Ironically, ECU advanced after that regional title to face
Tennessee in a super regional in Kinston when Mazey was as an assistant for
ECU’s senior class has had one of the most successful
tenures in school history, rivaled only perhaps by the early 1960s era which
NAIA powerhouses that included a national title in
“These seniors who have been here four years have a lot to
be proud of,” Mazey said. “They’ve laid the foundation for the future of the
program. They’ve provided great leadership throughout the season. Every time
this program has faced adversity the seniors have brought the team closer
ECU’s seniors have been through a unique maturation process.
LeClair’s situation and courage have provided a rare glimpse into a triumph
of human spirit.
“I know I’m a better person for having Coach LeClair and for
knowing Coach LeClair,” said senior pitcher Will Brinson. “I know Coach
LeClair takes everything he says to heart and you listen very carefully. He
speaks the truth and there’s a lot of knowledge behind those words.”
The 2003 seniors include outfielder Ben Sanderson, second
baseman Luke Cherry, infielder Kevin O’Sullivan as well as pitchers Brinson,
Neal Sears, Jason Tourangeau and Glenn Tucker.
Darryl Lawhorn, whose grand slam keyed the win over Georgia
Tech, leads the returning players. Lawhorn got a fastball over the plate
that he obviously hit well.
“He started me off with a fastball outside and I was looking
for something similar,” Lawhorn said. “I knew I got enough of it for it to
go out but it carried a lot farther.”
Unless the incoming recruiting class is decimated by the
draft, there will be a lot of arms to help fill the voids in the pitching
“I think the program is in great shape,” Sanderson said. “I
think the sky’s the limit. Obviously, there are some holes to be filled
pitching-wise but the program is going to be solid for years to come.
We’ve reached a point where we’re competitive in Conference USA and we’ve
been to the regionals five straight years.
“Now it’s time to take that next step and contend for a
berth in the College World Series.”
Lawhorn expects the Pirates to be improved next season.
“Omaha will be the goal, as it is every year,” Lawhorn said.
“I know we’ll put up better numbers. It’s going to be fun with all the young
pitchers coming in. Offensively, about everybody is coming back. It’s going
to be fun to watch and fun to play.”
ECU baseball coach Randy Mazey said his first season at the
Pirates’ helm was about what he — and others — expected.
“We were picked fifth in Conference USA in the preseason by
the coaches and that’s where we finished,” Mazey said. “They probably knew
more about our team at the start of the season than I did. We played well
enough in the conference to win eight out of 10 series. Depth in pitching is
what eventually proved to be our downfall.”
Senior outfielder Ben Sanderson was accorded the honor of
wearing the No. 23 jersey of former coach Keith LeClair during the 2003
“It meant a tremendous amount to me to be the first to wear
Coach LeClair’s number,” Sanderson said. “Coach LeClair means so much to me
and the community that surrounds East Carolina baseball. To be able to
represent that — words can’t describe that.”
Sanderson has one more class this summer and an internship
in the fall to complete his major in physical activity and fitness. He’ll
work at a health club as a personal trainer in his internship.
“I’ll be taking some time away from the game,” Sanderson
said. “If I miss it enough I might get back into it as a coach. If not, I’ll
be a big fan of it for sure.”
Upcoming schedule highlights
The Pirates will host a tournament in Keith LeClair’s honor
Participating teams will be Clemson, Western Carolina and
Georgia Southern. The coaches of all three teams have connections with the
former ECU coach. Also scheduled is a trip to Arizona State in 2004.
Lawhorn times two
Left-handed hitting Darryl Lawhorn has been an offensive
leader for the Pirates the last two seasons and will be joined on the team
next season by his twin brother, Trevor, who sat out this season after
transferring from Barton.
“Trevor isn’t a carbon copy of Darryl,” said ECU coach Randy
Mazey. “For one thing, he’s a right-handed hitter. It will be interesting to
get them both in the lineup on the same team and see what they can do.”
Trevor Lawhorn hit .330 at Barton last season with 10 homers
and 56 RBIs. He was named freshman of the year in the Carolinas-Virginia
Conference and led the Bulldogs to the league tournament championship.
He also pitched, compiling a 6-3 record with a 3.70 earned
run average. He had 58 strikeouts and just 16 walks in 80 2/3 innings.
“He’ll be a big help,” said Darryl Lawhorn. “He’ll probably
play in the infield somewhere and bat in the middle of the lineup behind
Ryan Norwood and me.”
The Pirates passed the time on the bus trip to and from the
regional in Atlanta mostly by sleeping or watching movies. “JFK” and
“Boondocks Saints” were the feature presentations on the return trip. The
team left about 9 a.m. on Sunday and stopped in Charlotte for lunch,
arriving back in Greenville around 6 p.m..
Send an e-mail message to Al Myatt.
Click here to dig into Al Myatt's Bonesville
02/23/2007 12:40:41 AM