Bonesville: The Authoritative Independent Voice of East Carolina
Daily News & Features from East Carolina, Conference USA and Beyond

Mobile Alpha Roundup Daily Beat Recruiting The Seasons Multimedia Historical Data Pirate Time Machine SportByte™ Weather





Put your ad message in front of 1,000's and 1,000's of Pirate fans. Call 252.637.2944 for flexible options & rates.





The Bradsher Beat
Friday, May 29, 2009

By Bethany Bradsher

Seniors recognize historic opportunity

By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.

It was a decade ago, in a restaurant booth in Baton Rouge, when the vision was born for a first-class baseball stadium at East Carolina.

As those ECU administrators and boosters who were in on that first conversation sparked the subsequent flurry of fundraising that laid the foundation for what is now Clark-LeClair Stadium, there was one long-range goal that helped drive the campaign. The envisioned facility, they hoped sooner rather than later, would serve as the host of an NCAA Regional.

Of course, an aim like that can’t be reached strictly with bricks and mortar. The players in a particular season have to collect enough wins against enough tough teams to catch the attention of the NCAA. When the Pirates learned Saturday that they would in fact be a regional host, the players seemed to know that they had inserted themselves indelibly into the highlight reel of the baseball program’s history.

“We’ve had some guys in the past that worked really hard to bring this program where it is, coaches like Keith LeClair and Gary Overton,” senior second baseman Ryan Wood said. “To be able to bring a host site to Greenville is really awesome.”

The squad’s seniors, especially, grasped the magnitude of this assignment — to be the first ECU team ever to host a regional at its home stadium.

Four of those players — Wood, Brandon Henderson, Stephen Batts and Drew Schieber — have been with the program since their freshman year. That 2006 season was the only year in the past 11 when ECU hasn’t qualified for a regional, and that failure sharpened their focus.

“We were the first team in a while that didn’t make it, and that was really disappointing,” Schieber said. “To be here these three years and to have this happen, it feels really good.”

In a sense, this is Coach Billy Godwin’s senior season too, since he came in with Wood, Henderson, Batts and Schieber. He has to fight back tears when he speaks of their leadership and the gratification of walking alongside them to this point. From 33 victories the first year, to two regional appearances, and finally a C-USA regular season title this spring, they have persevered together.

Of course, this weekend’s regional battle with Binghamton, George Mason and South Carolina represents a significant milestone to celebrate, but it’s only the first step of the postseason climb. Starting Friday night against Binghamton, the Diamond Bucs need to win three games to make a Super Regional, then make it out of that “Sweet 16” round to reach the ultimate tournament — the College World Series in Omaha.

It’s an arduous road, with 63 other talented teams standing in the way. And even though they have won 14 out of their past 19 games, ECU’s recent stumble in the Conference USA tournament still looms. The Pirates fell to Southern Miss 5-2 and then were shut out by Tulane 3-0 last Friday to be eliminated from the field.

On the bus ride home from Hattiesburg, the team weighed all of the possible outcomes of that early exit. Godwin had been telling them all season that 40 wins and a regular season championship would probably be enough to give them the host position.

But they had also been telling themselves that they would need to win at least two games in the C-USA tournament, Batts said. They were so uncertain that Henderson hadn’t even unpacked his suitcase as of Monday, he said, since he had expected to be hitting the road again soon.

Now that the Pirates are securely sleeping in their own beds, the seniors’ task this weekend is to help the team move past that early elimination and channel the pressure of being the No. 1 seed for the second straight weekend into inspired fundamental baseball.

“I think we just need to relax," he said. "We put so much pressure on ourselves to succeed (in the conference tournament), especially going in there as the number one seed, we’ve never had that feeling before. We’re just going to have fun and relax, and we need to swing the bat better.”

Schieber even wonders if the C-USA loss might be the best thing that has happened to the Pirates, since they can head toward the Regional with that misstep filed away as a learning experience.

“I think it might be a blessing in disguise how we played in the conference tournament,” he said. “It will wake us up a little bit, and we’re definitely going to play a lot better. We’ll just keep the same routine, and it’s just another baseball game.”

The seniors have been in Clark-LeClair enough times to guarantee one thing — an unforgettable atmosphere for their weekend visitors.

“This is huge for our fans and our family,” Batts said. “Just to see the atmosphere that’s going to come, it’s going to be awesome.”

Send a message to Bethany Bradsher.

Dig into Bethany Bradsher's archives.

05/29/2009 02:29:38 AM

©2001-2002-2003-2004-2005-2006-2007-2008-2009-2010-2011-2012-2013 All rights reserved.
Articles, logos, graphics, photos, audio files, video files and other content originated on this site are the proprietary property of
None of the articles, logos, graphics, photos, audio files, video files or other content originated on this site may be reproduced without written permission.
This site is not affiliated with East Carolina University. View's Privacy Policy. Advertising contact: 252-349-3280; Editorial contact:; 252-444-1905.