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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
By Brian Bailey

ECU's road to Omaha starts in Chapel Hill

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.

East Carolina’s baseball team is back in the NCAA regionals, and the Pirates don’t have to travel far to play.

ESPN actually screwed up the brackets on the selection show. It will be Jacksonville, and not Wofford as announced, in the Chapel Hill regional as the 4th seed.

ECU is the number two seed in the Chapel Hill regional, hosted by No. 3 national seed North Carolina. The ACC champs will meet Jacksonville in the first round, while ECU takes on Western Carolina.

So the “Carolinas Directional” regional features north, east and west.

South also has its own regional, which includes another north in N.C. State down in Columbia.

The Pirates are 1-2 in games against teams in the Chapel Hill regional, having beaten Western Carolina earlier this year in Greenville, and having lost both ends of a home and home with the Tar Heels.

“We’re very excited about making the NCAA field,” said Coach Billy Godwin shortly after Monday's announcement. “This is our goal each and every year. We want to win championships. There are 64 teams that have a shot to go to Omaha and we’re going to prepare and work like we’re going to be one of them."

Coach Godwin said it wasn’t really a surprise that the Pirates ended up in Chapel Hill.

“That’s what we kind of thought all along,” said Godwin. “With all of the speculation and everything, it’s what we thought. Sometimes things change but it wasn’t really a surprise.”

The Pirates and Western Carolina played a great game back on March 4 as a part of the Keith LeClair Classic. East Carolina won the game 3-2 on a Brandon Henderson RBI double in the bottom of the 9th.

The Tar Heels outscored East Carolina 15-1 in their two games, shutting out the Pirates 10-0 in Chapel Hill, and then winning 5-1 in Greenville.

North Carolina is the obvious favorite in the regional as the No. 3 national seed. The Heels are looking for a return trip to Omaha. They all but won the national title last year, and would like nothing more then to make up for that disappointment with a title run this year.

If East Carolina and North Carolina hook up this time, the situation will be much different. The Pirates would get a chance to use one of their top pitchers. North Carolina is obviously deeper then ECU, but a regional matchup narrows the gap on the mound a bit.

Although it wasn’t announced as such, T.J. Hose will likely get the start against Western Carolina on Friday. Hose knows that the match up with the Catamounts will be difficult enough. He also hopes that a Dustin Sasser or a Josh Dowdy gets a shot at Carolina.

“I’m certainly not taking anything away from our midweek guys,” said Hose. “But it will be nice to see a guy like Sasser go out there, if that’s how it works out.”

To a man this Pirate team knows that the Heels haven’t seen East Carolina’s best effort.

“We can’t think about that yet,” said Harrison Eldridge. “We have to go and take it one game at a time. That means Western Carolina first.”

The Pirates had a nice run in the Conference USA tournament, and hope to carry that momentum into this Chapel Hill regional. I think last week gave us all a little taste of what it will be like when the Pirates do host their own regional.

“I think we will take some momentum into the NCAA’s,” said Godwin. “I was proud of the way we battled last week.”

Hopefully, the Pirates will take some of that fight to Chapel Hill. It won’t be easy, but you know this Pirate team wants to play a little better against the boys in blue.

First things first, though. The opener with Western Carolina will be anything but a walk in the park.

It should be fun. For the Pirates, it’s great to be back in the NCAA tournament.

The goal is Omaha. The goal will always be Omaha.

Hope to see you in Chapel Hill.


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05/29/2007 12:48:01 AM


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