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Bailey's Take on Pirate Sports

From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, April 13, 2004
By Brian Bailey
Sports Anchor of WNCT-TV 9

Ex-Pirate backstop rides herd on pitchers


In this age of juiced up balls and aluminum bats, I thought East Carolina pitching coach Tommy Eason would really get excited about his staff’s 2.99 earned run average.

I stand corrected.

The stat that Coach Eason is most interested in is further to the right. One column is for strikeouts. The other column is for walks. That ratio is the most important statistic for Eason and his staff.

“There is just no defending a walk,” Eason told me on my Talk 1070/Cable 7 show this week. “You just can’t give away free bases, so that ratio is the most important thing that I look at.”


Replay this week's Brian Bailey Show with guest Tommy Eason: Select clip...

Still, there is no denying that the Pirates are getting it done on the mound, especially in earned run average.

Last year’s closer, Greg Bunn, is 6-0 with a 2.15 ERA. Matt Bishop is 2-0 with a 1.72. Former Rose star Mike Flye is under two at 1.96.

Regardless of the eye-popping ERAs, Eason likes to look at that other ratio, strike outs to walks.

As a team, the Pirates have 92 walks and 281 strikeouts. That’s just over a 3-1 strike out to walk ratio. That stat, as much as anything, is why this team is 28-6 on the year.

As a pitcher, it can’t be easy pitching in Harrington Field. The ball just seems to jump off the bat, and the stadium described as a “band box” by some teams isn’t all that big down the lines.

Opponents don’t like to pitch at Harrington at all. Against this ECU team, the opponents' ERA is a staggering 6.39. I guess it’s all those Lawhorns and Ryans, and the rest of this cast of sluggers. On any given night you don’t know if it’s going to be Darryl, or Trevor, or Ryan Jones or Ryan Norwood that will make you pay as an opposing pitcher.

John Poppert has just one homer on the year, but it’s a blast I’ll never forget, soaring to the top of the pines in the jungle at Harrington Field.

The Pirates' hurlers, on the other hand, have demonstrated no fear of challenging hitters in the cozy confines of Harrington.

Eason, a Snow Hill native who played in the Philadelphia Phillies' and San Francisco Giants organization from 1991-96, certainly likes working with this staff, but he says sometimes you do have get a little vocal.

“I was that way as a player,” said Eason, a catcher for ECU from 1989-91. “I’m sure I’m that way as a coach. Sometimes you just have to let a guy know what you’re thinking. Still, I tell them that I’ll never tell them anything verbally that won’t make them a better pitcher.”

Pirate head coach Randy Mazey set the goal of 40 wins earlier this season. You have to think this squad, which is currently 28-6 and ranked No. 15 by Baseball America, is on pace to eclipse that mark with ease.

Eason, who has been a member of the Pirates coaching staff since 1999, sees some similarities between this year’s team and the 2001 squad that came so close to earning a trip to Omaha.

“There are certainly some similarities, especially on offense,” Eason said. “I think this year’s pitching staff is deeper, though.”

Next up for the Pirates is a match up on Wednesday night against UNC Wilmington. These two tried to play last week, but after the Pirates made the two-hour trip to the south, the game had to be postponed because of rain.

The deep pitching staff could pay some huge dividends for ECU come June. The NCAA Regionals are scheduled for June 4-6. The Super Regionals are set for that next weekend.

This team has a confident air about it. It takes talent. It takes skill, and it doesn’t hurt to have a little luck on the road to Omaha.

It also doesn’t hurt to have depth in the pitching ranks, and a former catcher that bleeds purple leading that staff towards the post season!

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02/23/2007 01:29:15 AM

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