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The Bradsher Beat
Friday, April 20, 2007

By Bethany Bradsher

Solidarity with the Orange & Maroon

By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.

When a tragedy like Monday’s Virginia Tech massacre happens, it almost seems that life should stop in its tracks — even for just a little while. But on most U.S. college campuses tennis matches and baseball games and track practices go on.

So this column is a nod to that continued routine, to the good things that we can still enjoy amid the grieving and the questions. But first comes a reminder from East Carolina athletic director — and longtime Virginia resident — Terry Holland on on Thursday.

“Many of you have called or written to express the pain and grief that the entire East Carolina University community is feeling from the tragic events that occurred on the Virginia Tech campus on April 16, 2007,” Holland’s open letter began. “That terrible day and the resulting sorrow have prompted each of us to reconsider our priorities and place all of our daily activities in a proper perspective.”

The Pirate Nation is extending its arms to the Hokies in both practical and symbolic ways, according to Holland. First, the athletic department and the ECU Educational Foundation have made a commitment to present a $100,000 check to the Virginia Tech Administration at the season-opening football game between the two teams on Sept. 1 in Blacksburg.

To help meet that goal, Holland and other ECU leaders are encouraging fans to make contributions through the Pirate Club or the Educational Foundation. And he is also urging the Pirate community to wear Virginia Tech colors on Friday in solidarity with the Hokies as part of the nationwide “Hokie Hope” campaign.

If fans heed Holland’s advice, the stands at Clark-LeClair Stadium for tonight’s baseball game against Savannah State should be awash in orange and maroon.

But here’s one friendly tip from Holland: Focus on the maroon if possible, because Savannah State’s colors are orange and blue.

“It’s a great day to be a Pirate, yet today we are all Hokies!” Holland concluded.

Crunch time for softball

Back to the world of Pirate sports, where the purple runs deep even when fans wear maroon. The athletes most likely to get jet lag this weekend are the members of the Lady Pirate softball team, who leave Friday for a road series with the University of Texas at El Paso. It’s a crucial trip for ECU, which is standing at second in Conference USA with only nine games remaining.

“We hope to win a series on the road, which is something we have yet to do,” said head softball coach Tracy Kee.

[Editor's note: The Lady Pirates' Saturday game with UTEP at 3 p.m. will be shown as a pay-per-view event on CSTV. The registration site is Cost is $9.95.]

The team looked nearly invincible at the season’s start, with victories in 19 out of the first 26 games. But at the end of March they hit an offensive slump that was probably one part injuries and two parts lost confidence, Kee said.

“I think our kids struggled with their confidence,” she said. “That’s just so fragile. We worked on it in practice. They turned the corner some against Memphis, but they came up really big in the UNCW series.”

The Lady Pirates are still within striking distance of a C-USA title despite the fact that they start five freshmen and rarely have more than two upperclassmen on the field at any time.

One of the most solid seniors is pitcher Keli Harrell, who broke the C-USA strikeout record earlier in the season and is now splitting pitching time with freshman Toni Paisley.

“She has just been stellar,” Kee said of Paisley, who was a big recruit but originally expected to step up after Harrell graduates. “Right now we have a very nice 1-2 punch going.”

Big Jake unmasked

ECU alum Jake Smith may have traded his purple and gold for a minor league outfit somewhere in Illinois, but the local paper in his new hometown is helping to keep him in the Pirate consciousness.

Smith, the former All-American catcher who won the 2006 Coleman Company-Johnny Bench Award, is starting his first season as a member of the Class A Kane County Cougars in Geneva, IL. He is also trying his hand at journalism.

The Kane County Chronicle recently announced that Smith would write a weekly column throughout the season called “The Cougars’ Masked Man.” Smith’s thoughts will also be available each week in the form of a blog on the newspaper’s website, so Pirate fans can tune in each Tuesday to keep tabs on one of ECU’s most accomplished catchers.

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04/20/2007 02:29:47 AM

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