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View from the 'ville
Friday, April 24, 2009

By Al Myatt

ECU triumph could pay NCAA dividends

By Al Myatt
All rights reserved.

East Carolina's 4-0 baseball win over North Carolina on Wednesday night in Greenville may have some delayed benefits for the Pirates in terms of postseason play, according to former ECU coach Gary Overton.

Overton now serves on the NCAA Tournament selection committee.

Overton had a record of 427-237-1 at the helm of the ECU baseball program from 1985 to 1997. He now serves as analyst on radio broadcats of Pirate baseball games.

"I can say by virtue of them beating North Carolina, the No. 2-ranked team in the RPI (ratings power index), and No. 1 in some of the polls, it will drive our RPI up to the point of helping us in a lot of ways," Overton said. "Not only in seeding but maybe being a host for a regional.

"It's a little early right now. In a couple of more weeks, we'll get a feel for what a win like that will do for us. It may give us the possibility of being a No. 1 seed. It's just a little too early to tell right now."

Pirate freshman left-hander Kevin Brandt struck out a career-high 10 batters and extended his scoreless streak to 20 2/3 innings for No. 24 East Carolina (30-12) against the Tar Heels. The Pirates host Conference USA foe Southern Miss for a three-game series beginning tonight at 7 p.m.

Avoiding deep snapping deja vu

East Carolina completed spring practice on April 18 and now focus shifts to the 2009 season, which begins on Sept. 5 at home against Appalachian State.

The Pirates began last season in Charlotte with a 27-22 win over Virginia Tech. The Hokies went on to win the ACC championship and ECU continued on to capture the Conference USA crown.

The Pirates match up with Virginia Tech in Greenville on Thursday, Nov. 5 in 2009, in a contest that will be shown on ESPN. The last time the Hokies played in Greenville on a Thursday night was the second game of the 2000 season and special team mistakes were a major factor as Tech rolled out to 31-0 lead at halftime. ECU played a much better second half in a 45-28 loss.

In that earlier Thursday night encounter, the Pirates were playing just five days after a 38-0 season-opening win at Duke. In 2009, ECU will have nine days to prepare for the Hokies following an Oct. 27 game at Memphis. The Pirates will try to avoid the long-snapping problems that contributed to the loss to Tech in 2000.

Pirates coach Skip Holtz will have a new deep snapper this season. Sophomore William Smith from Goldsboro is taking over those duties. Few folks know the identity of the long snapper until he makes a mistake. Anonymity is a desirable status at that position.

"I think Will Smith has done some good things," Holtz said after the spring game on Saturday. "It's not as consistent as I would like to see it. They're probably a little bit better on the punts right now than they are on the field goals.

"It's something that this summer is going to be big for us -- to turn and continue to develop that long snapping role. Wilson Raynor is going to be sorely missed. He was a valuable asset to this football team."

Hoops takes a step forward

East Carolina lost its last six basketball games during the 2008-09 season but the overall 13-17 record showed progress from a 11-19 record in the Pirates' first campaign under the direction of Coach Mack McCarthy in 2007-08.

"We didn't necessarily get the number of wins that we would have liked to, especially finishing with six consecutive losses," McCarthy said. "If we would have found a way to win a couple of those, you're talking about a .500 season which would have been a major step.

"In terms of just being competitive and how we played -- we played hard and we played together -- I thought we really established some things not only in the minds of our team and the program, but also in the minds of the fans."

Feedback from the Pirate faithful has had a buoyant effect on the ECU coach.

"I've been so encouraged by the reaction that I'm getting all over town to the things that we did," McCarthy said. "I think folks are really starting to believe that we really are going to get this thing done."

ECU's win total was its most since the 2003-04 team went 13-14.

McCarthy has had some time to evaluate his club's late season struggles.

"We didn't have enough answers," he said. "Even though we had more weapons offensively than we've had in the past, we were still fairly predictable."

ECU was often in position to win down the stretch.

"In each of those games, except for the Marshall game, we played well enough to win," McCarthy said. "We probably led in four or five of those six games -- by double figures in a couple of those games.

"I think fatigue had a little bit to do with it -- not necessarily from a conditioning standpoint -- but I think playing seven sometimes eight people during the course of the season finally caught up with us mentally and physically."

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04/24/2009 02:08:56 AM


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