NEWS, NOTES &
The Bradsher Beat
Sunday, June 29, 2008
By Bethany Bradsher
Baseball thrives without caste
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There is a university near the coast with an
enrollment fast approaching 24,000. A public school affiliated with a large
statewide network of colleges, this school started as a teacher’s college in
the early 1900's.
The school's sports teams
play in a large non-BCS conference, and for decades no men’s team from this
school ever won a national championship.
When Fresno State
defeated Georgia 6-1 to become the top team in college baseball, it fanned a
flame under East Carolina and any other non-BCS school committed to the
belief that championship glory can indeed come to an underdog with
sufficient gumption and talent.
Granted, the Bowl
Championship Series designation is officially related to a school's football
affiliation, but membership in one of those vaunted conferences is often
emblematic of success in other arenas. The national college basketball
champion, for example, has come from a BCS school for the past 17 years.
The good news, said ECU
coach Billy Godwin, is that baseball doesn’t subscribe to such expectations.
The Diamond Bucs have always considered themselves on equal footing with any
opponent, no matter how deep the pockets or white hot the spotlight on said
opponent’s athletic program.
“For me, when you talk
about the BCS, you can throw that out the window in baseball,” Godwin said.
Of course, that doesn’t
discount the value of the Fresno State title as a motivational device for
any coach who has ever wanted to convince a team of its staying power.
The Bulldogs entered
their regional as a fourth seed with 31 losses, more than any other national
champion in history. They had to win the WAC tournament even to make it to
the NCAA postseason. Fresno State went on to win their way to the College
World Series, and Godwin thinks that when they made it to Omaha they may
have already celebrated their status as overachievers.
“I’m sure they were
tickled just to get to Omaha,” he said. “Then, to turn around and win the
national championship, I thought that was a great story.
“Every four seed in the
NCAA will be talking about Florida State.”
The Bulldogs had the raw
talent to make it to the postseason, but the most important dynamic – a
factor that can’t be underestimated in baseball – was their perfectly-timed
The run didn't come early
in the season, when they lost 12 out of their first 20 games. But when the
NCAA tournament rolled around, Fresno State found itself unable to lose.
“To me, it’s about having
a good club, and then you get hot at the right time,” Godwin said. “We just
have to keep getting to regionals and knocking on the door.”
Part of preparation for
that next NCAA regional, for about 10 Pirate players, is a full summer
schedule in a league like the Coastal Plains League or the Cape Cod League.
Four ECU players are
competing in Coastal Plains, and three – Stephen Batts, Kyle Roller and
Trent Ashcraft – were selected for Cape Cod, the most prestigious summer
Three other Pirates are
playing in other intercollegiate leagues, and the extra innings are helping
develop their skills for the NCAA.
But Godwin doesn’t
recommend summer league play for every player on his team, especially those
who were starters in the spring. For a player like freshman pitcher Seth
Maness, who pitched 98 innings and was named to four All-America squads for
his 2008 performance, a summer of resting his arm is far more beneficial
than games every night.
“We talk to each of them
about the summer, and for some we think it’s better for them to have the
time off,” Godwin said.
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06/28/2008 01:30:18 AM