ARTICLE OF THE DAY

Tangled Baseball Weave
by Brian North
5/31/07

This weekend's NCAA regional in Chapel Hill features lots of story lines that involve the three teams from the state of North Carolina. But only one of them (sorry, Jacksonville Dolphins) will be left standing when the dust settles.

Let's start with the coaches. Billy Godwin got his coaching start under current UNC head coach Mike Fox at North Carolina Wesleyan. The two combined to lead the Bishops to the Division III National Championship in 1989.

Western Carolina Head Coach Todd Raleigh has a strong link to ECU.  Raleigh spent the 1999 season as an assistant coach at East Carolina University under former WCU head baseball coach Keith LeClair. Raleigh was the Pirates' hitting instructor and recruiting coordinator, helping ECU to the Colonial Athletic Association championship, a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament and a final national ranking of 18th.

North Carolina's roster features five players from Eastern North Carolina, including two star pitchers who are having great seasons for the Tar Heels. New Bern native Adam Warren is 10-0 on the year with a 2.09 ERA, and former D.H. Conley star Alex White has been the Heels' Saturday starter going 6-4 and leads the team with 77 strikeouts.

Former Rose star shortstop Ryan Graepel played in 12 games this year (his first) and did not have an error in the field. Former West Carteret star Drew Poulk started 24 of the 38 games he has played in and hit .275 and hit four home runs, and Jacksonville native Kendric Burney has been used as a pinch runner and late inning defensive replacement.

On the flip side, ECU sophomore pitcher Josh Dowdy is from Raleigh and went to Wakefield High School.

East Carolina has played both the Catamounts and Tar Heels this season.  The Pirates beat WCU 3-2 March 4th, and lost both games to the Tar Heels; 10-0 April 24th in Chapel Hill and 5-1 May 9th in Greenville. In fact, Carolina has beaten the Pirates seven straight times and leads the all-time series 42-24. UNC and WCU have not met since 2000, but the Heels hold an 11-2 advantage over the Cats in their 13 career meetings.

This is just the 3rd regional ever held in the 36-year history of Boshamer Stadium, and will be the last before the place is remodeled to try and catch up to Clark-Leclair Stadium.

There should be some memorable baseball played this weekend as the tangled world of college baseball intersects in Chapel Hill. Can't wait to see who is left standing.
 
Brian North
bnorth@wcti12.com