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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
By Brian Bailey

Momentum comes at the right time for ECU

By Brian Bailey
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It is hard to believe there are only four games left in baseball’s regular season.

It seems like it was just yesterday that I wrote about how early baseball was “cheating” winter. We bundled up and had an early spring with baseball.

Now we can see the month of June coming into view. If you’re still playing in June, then you’re in the NCAA tournament. That was the goal at the start, and that goal is very much in reach.

It’s funny how perceptions go. East Carolina was picked 5th in the Conference USA preseason poll. Expectations weren’t all that high. I think this Pirate team has overachieved this season.

Still, I got an email this week ripping the program, because the Pirates didn’t beat N.C. State or North Carolina. The email said that the team has proven that it is not a championship caliber team.

If you look at the schedule, I’d say there were some pretty big wins this year. The Pirates are poised to finish second — behind Rice, the nation's No. 2 team — in the C-USA standings.

I think this can be a championship caliber ECU team, and we’ll find out in a couple of weeks at the C-USA tournament. This is a tough league, and we’ll see that up close and personal with a week full of baseball later this month.

Central Florida certainly didn’t go down this weekend without a fight. The Pirates had a 7-1 lead in game two of the series on Saturday when the storms blew in. On Sunday, the Golden Knights rallied to tie the game at 7. Corey Kemp then came up with the biggest hit of his career, a solo homer in the 8th, to win it for the Pirates.

“I’ve been struggling lately,” said Kemp afterwards. “I worked with the coaches all week. I was able to stay through the ball and got a pitch I could handle and drove it out of the park.”

“He was a sidearm guy," Kemp continued. "I'm sure it (the pitch) was a slider that didn’t slide too much. It stayed in on me and I stayed through and enough to hit it out of the park.”

Coach Billy Godwin knew that Sunday’s schedule was going to be difficult.

“I think that first game showed what momentum does in this game,” said Godwin. “We seized momentum Saturday (leading 7-1) and we talked about having to regain it. They were the ones that regained the momentum (with the comeback) but we held them off enough and Corey had the blow for us.”

UCF has played pretty good baseball at times, with little to show for it. Kemp’s homer paved the way for the game three victory, completing the sweep over the Golden Knights.

The Pirates completed their ninth series sweep of the year and fourth in Conference USA play at the Golden Knights' expense. ECU also swept Cal State Fullerton, Radford, Michigan, Memphis, UNC-Wilmington, Marshall, Savannah State and Houston.

Perhaps lost in the sweep was the hitting streak for Stephen Batts. Batts now has the fourth longest streak in school history at 18 games. During the streak, Batts is hitting .342 (25-73) with 4 home runs, 15 RBI's and 16 runs scored.

“I just go up there, pitch by pitch,” said Batts. “I’m really just trying to do my best to get a hit each time.”

Godwin says simplifying things has helped Batts become a better hitter.

“He’s done a good job,” said Godwin. “I thought he had a good, two-strike hit today. I think he’s gone back to simplifying his approach and he’s not trying to do too much. He’s hitting the ball to all fields and that’s what good hitters do.”

The Pirates close out the home slate with tonight’s game against Elon.

“They’re a tough club,” said Godwin. “It seems year in and year out that they are battling for a spot in the regionals.”

First it’s Elon and then the road trip to UAB to close out the regular season with a three-game set starting Thursday.

Next week should provide a great fix for all baseball junkies with the Conference USA tournament making its run at Clark-LeClair Stadium starting Wednesday, May 23.

June is just around the corner, and the Pirates are in a great position for the postseason.


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04/21/2008 07:02:56 PM


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