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Watch for Al Myatt's profile of new ECU Chancellor Steven Ballard in this summer's Bonesville Magazine.

View from the East
Friday, June 25, 2004

By Al Myatt

Big success breeds big lineup challenge


Randy Mazey knows how Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski feels. The East Carolina baseball coach has seen his program take a significant hit in terms of departures to the pros since the Pirates' appearance in the Super Regional at South Carolina less than two weeks ago.

If you figure 40 percent of Duke's 2004-05 starting lineup opted for last night's NBA draft — rising sophomore forward Luol Deng and incoming freshman Shaun Livingston — then Mazey may have it even worse. Four starting position players — Ryan Norwood, Trevor Lawhorn, Ryan Jones and John Poppert — have signed pro contracts. That's 50 percent of the position players, although Jones, the Conference USA player of the year, and Poppert were seniors and were scheduled to exit the program anyway.

ECU also has lost two right-handed pitchers — juniors Greg Bunn and Matt Bishop. Bunn and Bishop had 14 of ECU's school record 51 wins in 2004. Bunn (10-1, 2.70 ERA) was the C-USA pitcher of the year. Bunn's only loss came in a rain-shortened start in the first game of the Super Regional.

"It's the sign of a good program that your top players are going to get pro contracts," Mazey said. "Sometimes you trade a good season for losing some good guys. As coaches we try to project those potential losses nine months ahead of time and try to recruit to fill potential needs. You try to project as much as you can the things that are going to happen in the draft but projecting everything nine months ahead of time is impossible."

Trevor Lawhorn's eye-catching season — a .310 average, 21 home runs and 66 RBIs in 62 games — was a performance that went unprojected.

"Trevor Lawhorn was in his first year in the program and we didn't expect to lose him nine months ago," Mazey said. "But he had a great season and got a good opportunity and we wish him the best."

T-Law's departure could open a door for Brett Lindgren at second base, as ECU looks to complete the keystone combination that includes shortstop marvel Billy Richardson. Lindgren and Richardson were teammates at Fresno (Cal.) City College. Lindgren hit .286 with 42 at-bats and eight starts in 2004.

The Pirates also may lose Darryl Lawhorn to pro ball when he is healthy enough from a foot injury to sign and join a rookie league club.

That means four of the top five home run hitters from a Pirate offense that produced 100 round trippers will be gone — T. Law, Jones (19 HRs), Norwood (14) and D. Law (10). That will mean some changes in ECU's offensive style.

"We obviously lose a lot of power off of this year's squad," Mazey said. "I said when we went into the season that we had the ability to hit 100 home runs and we did that. I can safely say that next year we aren't going to hit 100 home runs. We'll be a different club. The guys coming in are speed guys as opposed to power guys."

Experience of the pitching staff was a big question mark going into the 2004 season but the Pirates replaced it with an exclamation mark in earning an NCAA Tournament berth for the sixth straight season. Shane Mathews (7-1, 3.72), lefty Brody Taylor (8-0, 4.64), Kevin Rhodes (5-1, 2.87) and Carter Harrell (5-2, 3.00) return as proven veterans.

"I feel good about the pitching coming back," Mazey said. "If all the guys get one year better like they are supposed to we should be all right."

Stadium on schedule

The backdrop for ECU baseball will be taking a significant step up with a $9 million stadium that will seat 3,000. Coach Mazey said the stadium dimensions — distances down the lines, power alleys and to straightaway center — will be the same as at old Harrington Field.

That's 320 feet down the lines, 390 to left-center and right-center, and 410 to center. The old brick and bleachers that comprised ECU's baseball home until May 4 disappeared quickly.

"At this point the construction is on schedule from what I've been told," Mazey said.

ECU officials have said from the outset that they want the new facility completed for the 2005 season.

C-USA ponders football championship

New ECU chancellor Steve Ballard said through a spokesman on Thursday that he did not attend Conference USA meetings in Dallas the weekend of ECU's baseball Super Regional in Columbia, SC. One topic explored was the advisability of a C-USA football championship game in 2005 pitting division champs against each other, a concept which has been implemented in the SEC and Big 12 as well as other leagues.

C-USA will undergo significant membership changes for 2005 that will allow two divisions of six teams, the prerequisite for a championship game. ECU football coach John Thompson's initially said he liked the possibility of a league championship game because he felt players would like to compete for it and it would be a good recruiting incentive.

The drawbacks of a title game include possible short preparation time for the matchup's loser. The GMAC Bowl in Mobile and the New Orleans Bowl fall early in the postseason schedule, less than two weeks after a tentative C-USA title game date. There is also concern about adding another hurdle for a C-USA team positioned for inclusion in the expanded Bowl Championship Series format.

Tulane president Scott Cowen, the driving force in the proposed expansion of the BCS, said he's doubtful the C-USA will play a championship football game in 2005.

The possibility of no title game doesn't sit well with incoming member Marshall, which has played in six of the last seven title games in the Mid-American Conference. Thundering Herd athletics director Bob Marcum said a title game was in the scenario when the decision was made for his institution to change leagues. Marcum said no title game might force Marshall to reevaluate its plans.

The C-USA presidents will weigh the issue again in August.

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02/23/2007 12:45:52 AM

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