Observations and Punditry
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
By Woody Peele
Season short-circuited by a
failure to close
Barring some miracle, East Carolina’s
baseball team will end the 2006 season this week in the Conference USA
With the Pirates’ record of 32-24, about
the only way ECU could make the field would be to win the title, earning
the automatic berth.
When the season opened, the Pirates,
picked to finish fifth in pre-season balloting by the C-USA coaches,
were more optimistic. They had healthy pitchers — pitchers who missed
the 2005 season with injuries — ready to do the job. In fact, that was
one of the strong spots. The Pirates had lost some of the heavy bats
from the year before and weren’t expected to be the power hitters this
Early on, against non-conference foes,
that seemed to be the true picture of the team. The first loss of the
a 1-0 decision against Maryland in
game two, the Pirates had runners at the corners with one out in the 8th
inning but failed to push any across.
It was a pattern to be repeated again and
As the season reached the halfway point,
the Pirates were 17-9 and
visited N.C. State. East Carolina
built up a 4-0 lead over the Wolfpack after five innings, only to see
the Pack rally to tie it after eight at 4-all. Then, NCSU pushed over
the game-winner in the bottom of the inning.
That was followed by the first C-USA game,
against Houston. Trailing 4-3, the
Pirates loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning, only to fail to
get the hit they needed.
During the first part of the season, ECU
went 17-11, but lost only four games the Pirates seemed to have control
of late in the game.
The second half of the season, however,
was a different story, as the Pirates went 15-13. Ironically, the
Pirates faced conference foes that were, for the most part, either lower
or tied with ECU in the standings when they faced each other.
In the final analysis, ECU went 7-2
against the three teams which finished below them in the standings, 2-10
against those who finished higher.
In the stretch run, six of the 15 wins and
two of the losses came against non-conference foes.
It started with a
4-3 loss at N.C. State, a game in
which the Pirates built a 3-0 lead only to see the Pack tie the game on
a passed ball in the 9th and win in the 10th inning on a wild pitch.
East Carolina led Southern Miss 10-8 in
the 9th inning, but saw the Golden Eagles tie it up,
then win 11-10 on another wild
pitch in the 11th. A
second loss to the Eagles, 8-5,
came after ECU led 5-0.
All three losses to Memphis in the final
series of the year were further heart-breakers. The first game saw the
Pirate pitching staff give up a grand slam in the 9th when the Pirates
blew a 6-5 lead
to lose 9-6. In the second game,
ECU closed to 7-6 in the 6th inning, only to give up three runs in the
seventh and four more in the eighth in
a 14-6 defeat.
The 32-24 (.571) record is the worst
regular season mark since Keith LeClair’s first year in 1998 (.508). The
conference record of 10-14 (.417) hasn’t been seen since 1995, when the
Pirates went 5-13 (.286) in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Basically, it comes down to the fact that
the ECU pitchers were not able to hold a lead, or keep the offense
The Pirates lose four position players,
outfielder Jay Mattox, first baseman Adam Witter and catchers Jake Smith
and Adam Hodges, and all will be missed. But with the rest of the
position players back, the Pirates have a chance to improve in that
focus of the game.
Pitching, however, will be hard hit. Gone
will be conference starter Brody Taylor as well as Scott Andrews, Carter
Harrell and Kevin Rhodes, all of whom saw starting duties during the
season. T.J. Hose and Shane Matthews are back, giving the Pirates a good
base for league starters.
But reinforcements must develop or arrive
if the Pirates are to make another run at a regional berth in 2007.
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02/23/2007 02:44:26 PM