Pirates have reason to feel good
despite rough week

by Dan Eberhard

What could have been one of the most memorable weeks in Pirate Baseball history turned sour in the 6th inning against North Carolina on Tuesday night.  A blowout loss to the Tar Heels and a shutout to the hands of NC State ensued, but don't give up on the Pirates just yet.  The Pirates have a huge conference weekend ahead and have reason to feel good with two leaders making their way back into the lineup.

Senior shortstop Billy Richardson played in the field during the late innings of both games this week.  The team's leading hitter (.423) was scheduled to take batting practice Thursday afternoon and will be a game-time decision for Friday’s tilt with Memphis. Richardson has been out the last month with a broken bone in his left hand.

“It’s a little sore but I feel maybe I can go this weekend,” said Richardson.  “The last week I’ve really been working on it and I’m getting close.”

Third baseman Mark Minicozzi was also in the lineup Wednesday after missing seven games with a sprained knee.  Known as one of the best corner infielders in the conference, Minicozzi was hitting .322 be with 28 RBI before he got injured.

“It’s going to take those guys a little while to get the rust off.  They haven’t played in a couple of weeks,” said ECU head coach Randy Mazey. 

With a strong showing against Memphis, East Carolina (21-15, 7-8) can get to .500 in the conference for the first time all season.  The squad has rebounded nicely after a 1-5 start in league play. 

East Carolina currently sits in 8th place in the C-USA standings and likely needs to finish in the top four to be a candidate for the NCAA Tournament.  There are 15 league games remaining and none are against the conference's elite teams.  Memphis (9-25, 3-12) only has one win in the month of April and hasn’t shown much fight all season. 

“We’ve put ourselves in a position where we can’t afford to lose a game we’re supposed to win,” said Mazey.  “I think we’re supposed to win three this weekend.”

The Pirates three remaining home series are against Memphis, Cincinnati and St. Louis.  They have a shot at sweeping all three and if things go in ECU’s favor they should be in the thick of the postseason talk.

Dan Eberhard