College Sports in the Carolinas
from the East
Thursday, May 29, 2003
By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News &
Soul food fuels trek to
arduous Atlanta regional
The East Carolina baseball team left around 8:30 a.m. on
Wednesday for its NCAA Tournament regional in Atlanta, stopped at Lizard’s
Thicket in Columbia, S.C., for some country cooking for lunch and arrived in
the Georgia capital around 5 p.m. The team is staying at the Marquis
Marriott off of Peachtree Street.
The Pirates practice today at Georgia Tech’s Russ Chandler
Stadium at 1:30 p.m. and play South Carolina at 3 p.m. on Friday.
The team took in the Atlanta Braves’ 15-3 win over the
Cincinnati Reds at Turner Field on Wednesday night.
The Pirates are coming off a 2-2 performance in the
Conference USA Tournament in which ECU allowed a total of eight runs in four
“I’m happy where we are,” ECU coach Randy Mazey said of his
pitching staff. “Everybody who toed the rubber down in New Orleans threw
pretty well, so I like our chances. I’m never giving up on these guys and
they never give up. We said from day one we want to play our best baseball
in May and June and we’re doing that right now.
“We’ve gone through a lot of different lineups to get there
and we’ve settled on one. ... We’re hot right now.”
Mazey is concerned about how the Pirates will match up with
the Gamecocks, who are ranked No. 15 nationally by Collegiate Baseball, No.
21 by Baseball America and No. 24 in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll.
“South Carolina’s left-handed pitching — that’s their
strength,” he said. “They’re going to throw some good guys at us. I assume
when they see our lineup, they’ll probably throw a lefty, so we’re going to
have to hit some pretty good left-handed pitching.”
Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner played and later coached at N.C.
State. South Carolina finished as the runner-up in the NCAA Tournament in
Omaha last year and is 39-20 this year.
“I know Ray very well,” Mazey said. “I’ve coached against
Ray everywhere I’ve been. I played at Clemson. I grew up in college not
liking South Carolina so it would be really nice to beat those guys.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Ray. He does a great job. His
staff does a great job. Those guys play hard. They overachieve. It’s going
to be a battle. I fully expect it to be a battle.”
The NCAA Tournament bid is the fifth straight for the
Pirates but their No. 3 seeding is the lowest in that span. ECU was a No. 1
seed in 1999, 2000 and 2001. They were a No. 2 seed last year.
Mazey obviously would prefer not to be watching the
selection show and wondering if his team is going to be included in the
field as was the case this past Monday. A new $7.5 million stadium, set for
construction after the 20004 season, should advance the competitive level of
“I think the future of this program is bright,” said the
first-year Pirates coach. “When we get the new stadium built, we’re going to
be able to attract kids from all over the nation to come here. In the last
four or five years, the kids who were here and the coaches who were here set
the precedent ... for all this tradition that enables us to get into
regionals as a bubble team.
“I just think in the next three, four, five years when we
get a chance to recruit to that new stadium for three or four years — bring
three different classes in there — I’m nothing but optimistic about what’s
going to happen here over the next 10 years.”
For the time being, Mazey is confident that the Pirates will
give 110 percent in Atlanta.
“You don’t have to worry about energy with this group,”
“That’s the way they play — the way they reacted (when the
Pirates matchup was shown on television in the bracket announcements). ...
There’s a lot of energy in our dugout. Our guys just play with a lot of
heart. That reaction is very indicative of what this team is like. ... I
fully expect them to represent East Carolina very well.
“Hopefully, we’ll win two or three games and start thinking
about a super regional.”
Mazey admitted he wasn’t sure if ECU (33-25-1) would get the
program’s 19th trip to an NCAA regional when he walked into the Pat Draughon
Room of the Ward Sports Medicine Building on Monday to watch the selection
show with the team.
“To be honest with you, I was nervous,” he said. “I didn’t
know what to expect. I went and did my projected 64-team bracket (Sunday)
and there was a couple of upsets around the nation in some tournaments,
which was normal. When I saw the first couple of pairings and saw teams like
Stetson and Jacksonville and Rutgers — all teams who were bubble teams, all
get in — I wasn’t too optimistic.
“To be honest, I was banking everything on the Wilson
regional but, heck, we’re not picky. We’d go anywhere to play. It’s just a
great feeling to see our name pop up there. ... I was no different than the
guys. I’ve been through all the battles with these guys and we’re all in
this together. I don’t think I felt any different than they did — just
excited to be in.”
South Carolina leads the series with the Pirates 10-3 and is
3-0 against the Pirates in NCAA Tournament play. The teams last met in
postseason play in Atlanta in 1993 with ECU falling 6-5 in another opening
Senior right-hander Will Brinson is expected to start
against the Gamecocks on Friday.
“You know South Carolina is going to be a good team,”
Brinson said. “That regional looks pretty tough with Georgia Tech. You’ve
just got to go out there and pitch your game and hope everything falls in
place for you.”
Host Georgia Tech (44-16) is the No. 3 seed nationally and
No. 1 for the regional. The Yellow Jackets play No. 4 seed Stetson (39-22)
at 7 p.m. on Friday. Ranked No. 7 in two national polls, Tech captured the
ACC Tournament championship on Sunday by winning three games on the last day
in Salem, Va.
“We’ve got a tough bracket ahead of us,” said sophomore
shortstop Darryl Lawhorn.
“I don’t know anything about them other than they were in
the national championship last year,” said senior outfielder Ben Sanderson,
who wears No. 23 in honor of former coach Keith LeClair, of the matchup with
“They’re a great program, great tradition down there and I
don’t know a whole lot about their team this year but I know we’ve got a
real big task down there.”
The next win would be No. 100 for coach Mazey in his college
coaching career. He was head coach at Charleston Southern from 1994 to 1996.
Friday afternoon in Atlanta would be a great time to reach
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