The atmosphere Wednesday night at Clark-LeClair Stadium is something I
won't soon forget. It's what college baseball is all about.
A record 5,041 fans piled into the home of the Pirates to watch East
Carolina beat rival North Carolina State 2-1 in 13 innings.
About an hour and a half before the game I hobbled onto the field with
a purple cast from my left toes to just below my knee. Billy Godwin was
one of literally hundreds of people before the end of the night to
utter the phrase... "What happened to you?" By then I had already run
out of "manly" reasons for fracturing my ankle. Here's a few: "It was a
bull riding accident, I was the only man brave enough to try breaking
in Hurricane." "I was working on my double
back flip with Dave Mirra and landed hard on the other side of a 30
foot ramp." "Sky diving over the Grand Canyon" or my favorite... "I
told my wife she better get in the kitchen and fix me some eggs or bad
things were gonna happen... the next thing I know I'm in a hospital bed
cryin' for my momma!"
In reality it was a simple basketball injury. The result of a bunch of
old men trying to hang on to youth.
But enough about my ankle. Back to baseball.
So after Godwin giggled about my foot, he expressed to me just how
important it was for ECU to beat N.C. State. Of course I got a real
good sense of that when he announced that ace pitcher T.J. Hose would
get the start on the mound after just four days of rest. After years of
coaches at ECU downplaying the importance of beating an
out-of-conference, in-state rival it was refreshing to hear Godwin say
what we all know coaches think. Of course he stopped short of telling
his team how much was riding on beating N.C. State. Somehow I think
they already knew.
Godwin realized prior to the game that beating N.C. State had very
little to do with "bragging rights" and everything to do with helping
secure an eighth consecutive NCAA Tournament bid. The win over a
nationally ranked N.C. State team improves ECU's RPI and strength of
schedule and that could only help late in the season if the Pirates
happen to falter in the Conference USA Tournament.
The Pirates return to the field Friday night for the first of three
games against Albany. I'll see you at the game... And don't ask about