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The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, February 15, 2006

By Bethany Bradsher

Kee overseeing dynasty in the making


When spring sports and the Winter Olympics are in full swing, we are officially in a state of seasonal confusion. But in the slate of new East Carolina offerings, a few sports and athletes deserve a good long look.

With only one losing season in her 10 years at the helm of ECU softball, Tracey Kee went out on a limb this year. She asked the athletic department to allow her team a season-opening trip to Florida to play in the Worth Invitational at Florida Atlantic University.

Kee expected the trip to challenge her players as they played against strong teams, and she hoped the experience would jumpstart the season.

But she would never have predicted that their record now, with the tournament behind them, would be 5-0.

One of the winningest programs in recent Pirate history, ECU softball is poised to become a power in Conference USA. The team went 55-19 overall and 17-7 in the conference last season, and Kee was named the C-USA Coach of the Year.

Despite the loss of several key seniors, the women on this year's squad seem to have acquired that most essential of qualities — the anticipation of success.

“The kids we recruit see the tradition, that greatness is expected,” Kee said.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the Pirates have the C-USA Preseason Pitcher of the Year on their staff. A junior out of Rose High in Greenville, Keli Harrell posted a 1.39 ERA last season with a record of 29-13. She led the conference in five categories, including wins and strikeouts.

Harrell has her work cut out for her to live up to the preseason accolades, but if the Worth Invitational is any indication she is capable of meeting the challenge. She went 3-0 with complete games over Bethune-Cookman, Purdue and South Carolina and was named MVP of the tournament.

For her efforts over the weekend, Harrell was named one of two C-USA Pitchers of the Week, and ECU third baseman Ashley Quick earned C-USA Hitter of the Week honors. Quick, a senior from Dunlap, IL, batted .455 (5-for-11) with five RBI and two game-winning hits during the Florida tournament.

Quick and Harrell are two of the upperclassmen who will try to stay at the core of a solid Pirates team this season, but Kee said that she has also been impressed with the group of newcomers, including two freshmen from California and a junior-college transfer who is originally from The Netherlands.

“We lost some impact players last year, and going into this season we had a lot of holes we weren’t sure how they were going to be filled,” Kee said. “But with the addition of these six players, the chemistry hasn’t missed a beat.”

The next step for the Pirates, who host three tournaments in Greenville this season, is a single-elimination invitational at home featuring Army, Seton Hall, Towson, Michigan State and North Carolina State.

Frasure throwing his weight around

His junior season is only a month old, but Eric Frasure has already set two school records for ECU track and field. He set the ECU record for the weight throw, also reaching a provisional NCAA qualification distance in that event, in late January. Then last weekend, he set the school shot put record at a meet in Pennsylvania.

Frasure will next compete at the end of February in the C-USA indoor championship in Houston, followed by the NCAA indoor championships in Arkansas on March 11. The outdoor season will commence on March 18 at Coastal Carolina.

Success with an international flavor

The opening stretch of its season might not have looked too inviting, but the women’s tennis team came home from a nine-game road trip with a 6-3 record. Featuring players from Tasmania, Portugal, South Africa, Spain and Romania, the team has defeated Georgetown, George Mason, Drexel, Wofford, Georgia State and Radford.

The Lady Pirates are winning 59 percent of their matches in singles play and 53 percent in doubles, despite Saturday’s 6-1 loss to North Carolina State. They will try competing at home next, with consecutive home matches against Elon, Mount Olive, Campbell and North Carolina A&T.

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02/23/2007 01:12:48 AM

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