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College Sports in the Carolinas

View from the East
Monday, June 7, 2004

By Al Myatt
ECU Beat Writer for The News & Observer

Weatherman out-jukes Mother Nature


KINSTON — In a less technologically-developed age, there probably would have been no weather delay for the NCAA Tournament winners bracket game between UNC Wilmington and East Carolina on Sunday. It was sunny at the game site at 3 p.m., when the Pirates and Seahawks were scheduled to commence.

Without weather-tracking information, the game would have started and, likely sometime in the second inning, the clouds would have moved in and the bottom would have fallen out at Grainger Stadium in Kinston.

The regional had, of course, already undergone the postponement of two games on Friday because of showers throughout the day. Someone said the Pirates might finish up in the regional this coming Friday and fly immediately to Columbia, SC, for the Super Regional against South Carolina. Who knows? At 3:30 p.m. on Sunday there were a lot of purple-clad people looking out from under the grandstand roof as sheets of rain descended on the tarp-covered infield.

The value of radar that showed the approach of the system was that it allowed some advance notice of the approaching rain. Game management personnel advised fans with seats in the bleachers to head to their vehicles or the covered portion of the stadium’s seating area. The teams filed from their dugouts to the clubhouse.

Apart from the safety aspect, there also are considerations related to the game. From the baseball perspective, technology saved the starting pitchers from short and probably wasted starts. Coaches don’t like it when their mound personnel have to sit through long half innings, much less a lengthy rain delay. Had the game started, Ronald Hill of the Seahawks and Brody Taylor of the Pirates might be scratched for the rest of the regional.

One of the most contentious episodes in the two-year coaching tenure of Randy Mazey at ECU stemmed from a rain delay that was deemed too lengthy for senior starting pitcher Davey Penny to continue for the Pirates last season. Penny got upset when he couldn’t keep pitching and left the dugout. He went to the team locker room and the incident ultimately resulted in his dismissal from the program.

All of which is enough to make one appreciate the value of radar.

The weather and an 11-4 win over UNC Wilmington after a two hour, 28-minute delay will serve in ECU’s favor. The Seahawks had to turn around and struggle mightily past favored Tennessee 4-3 later Sunday night to survive to meet the Pirates again at noon today. Starting time today was moved up one hour because of the possibility of afternoon storms — giving the Seahawks one less hour to rest and prepare.

Pirates coach Randy Mazey obviously likes ECU’s position with ace Greg Bunn (9-0, 2.88 ERA) rested and ready to go for the regional championship today.

“It was a huge game,” Mazey said after the win over Wilmington. “That is the biggest game I have ever coached in. I don’t know if the team knows it, but that is the biggest game that they have ever played in. The way it worked out with the rain today, we really didn’t want to be out there playing tonight and turn around and play a noon game tomorrow (Monday). That is going to be tough on whoever wins Game 5.

“This win puts us in good position, but we aren’t going to feel too good about it right now because the tournament isn’t over by any stretch of the imagination. We are going to go and get a good night’s rest and come out and be ready for a huge battle tomorrow regardless of who wins this game tonight.”

A 6-run seventh inning against UNCW pushed ECU’s lead to 11-2.

“Our team hasn’t panicked when we got behind all season,” said Seahawks coach Mark Scalf. “We felt like we were still in the ballgame when it (was) 5-2 in the sixth. What really hurt us was the seventh.”

Taylor went 6 2/3 innings and scattered 10 hits in improving to 8-0. Scott Andrews and Ricky Brooks came out of the bullpen to preserve the Pirates lead.

Ryan Jones had a 2-run homer for a 4-1 ECU lead in the fifth. Mark Minicozzi hit his 10th of the season and the 99th by the Pirates for a 5-2 lead in the sixth.

Mazey liked seeing Jones’ 19th round-tripper clear the right field fence in the fifth inning.

“It was nice to see some power out of Jonesy,” Mazey said. “He has hit a lot of home runs this year but not too many lately. To see that ball come off his bat with that trajectory and that much juice was good to see.”

If there was a downside to ECU’s second win over the Seahawks in three games this season, it was Darryl Lawhorn on crutches and Mike Grace, who took his spot in the lineup as designated hitter, coming up lame himself after an RBI single in the seventh. Mazey said those players’ medical conditions will be monitored daily.

“I’m still going to bed feeling every hitter in our lineup is pretty hot right now,” Mazey said.

ECU out-hit the Seahawks 15-12 and chased Hill (12-4) after five innings.

Hill said the crowd of 3,210 — mostly supporting the Pirates — was a factor.

“It affects you a little bit,” Hill said. “The fans keep you from focusing as much as you would if you were in your home stadium, but I kind of fed off of it a little bit.”

UNCW coach Mark Scalf said the Pirates took advantage of their opportunities.

“We knew what we were up against coming into the whole weekend,” Scalf said. “ ... We knew we were going to have to pitch very, very well. They didn’t miss many mistakes today. We made some mistakes out over the plate and they didn’t miss them.”

Scalf's club, after a short night's rest, will now get another shot at ECU, which has not lost a game in the double-elimination affair.

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02/23/2007 12:45:51 AM

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