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From the Anchor Desk
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
By Brian Bailey

Rough regional doesn't alter ultimate goal

By Brian Bailey
All rights reserved.

East Carolinaís baseball season ended in a misty fog on a Saturday night in the NCAA regionals in Chapel Hill.

Sure, the Pirates did stick around for a Sunday game in the loserís bracket, but the damage was done.

North Carolinaís come-from-behind 11-10 victory over East Carolina on Saturday was as demoralizing a loss as Iíve ever seen any team go through in person.

It was a great college baseball game in an outstanding atmosphere. The underdog Pirates built a couple of leads, only to find the Tar Heels clawing their way back.

East Carolinaís last lead was 10-8 going to the bottom of the ninth. It was all set up for the Shane Matthews to deliver the knockout blow.

Unfortunately, Matthews couldnít find the strike zone. A most inconsistent umpire didnít help things. Just ask UNC-Chapel Hill pitching coach Scott Forbes, who was ejected earlier in the game for arguing balls and strikes.

A couple of walks started the comeback. After a sacrifice bunt moved the runners over, Matthews uncorked the wildest of pitches, a one-hopper behind the batter. It would have been much better to hit the batter then to unload that baby, which cut the lead to 10-9.

Thatís when the hit parade started, and the Carolina comeback was on.

Matthews was off of his game, and thatís a shame, because this team wouldnít have won 40 games without him.

Many have second-guessed Pirate coach Billy Godwin on his decision to bring Matthews in. However, thatís been a winning formula all year long.

Matthews wasnít the only Pirate to struggle. East Carolina committed four errors in the game.

Defensive replacement Dale Mollenhauer had two miscues, coming back from that broken hand. Again, there was second-guessing by many.

I watched Mollenhauer at practice and he looked good in simulated scrimmages. I really donít think it was the hand as much as maybe some rust. Again, East Carolina doesnít win 40 games without Mollenhauer at shortstop.

After the game, Coach Billy Godwin said he would do the same thing again. Mollenhauer is a winner, and you hate for his season to end the way it did.

Billy Godwin wasnít around for the ending on Saturday. Godwin was tossed after arguing a call with the same second base umpire that had already tossed the Tar Heel assistant from the game.

That play was a tag play on a sacrifice fly involving Corey Kemp. Hereís what I saw: The ball was hit deep to right field. I thought Kemp was especially careful to tag after the catch, because he knew he had time because the ball was so deep.

However, when the ball got back to the infield, the umpire raised his fist at second, indicating that Kemp left early.

Godwin was livid. He threw his hat high into the air, and when he did, he got the thumb. From my vantage point it was simply a terrible call, made by a power hungry umpire looking for attention in an NCAA regional.

While Iím complaining about the umps, the ECU-UNC game was another example where the strike zone was inconsistent for both teams. That may have led to Alex Whiteís problems. White was dominating against Virginia in the ACC tournament, but the Pirates were able to rough him up pretty well.

East Carolina was knocked out of the regionals in a 9-5 loss to Western Carolina. The highlight was Stephen Battís two-run homer, which extended his school record hitting streak to 29 games.

It certainly wasnít the way the Pirates wanted to go out.

The goal is Omaha. There is more work to be done. Still, you have to think this team took positive steps towards someday realizing that goal of making it to the College Baseball World Series.


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06/05/2007 03:34:23 AM


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