ARTICLE OF THE DAY

True Barometer
Awaits Baseball Pirates

by Josh Spence
2/13/07

East Carolina's opening day loss to Liberty left plenty of fans and supporters of the ECU baseball team scratching their heads.  Say it's not true!  Not baseball too?  However, most of the questions would be silenced after the Pirates were able to win the final two games to take the series, silenced at least for now.  Would the real baseball Pirates please stand up?

ECU looked jittery in the opener.  The Pirates managed only six hits in the game, and only one after the fourth inning.  TJ Hose's return to the mound was less than stellar.  The Pirates ace allowed five runs on seven hits and five walks in only three and two-thirds innings.  Not exactly the return he was hoping for after sitting out much of the end of last season and the summer nursing a sore throwing arm.

It was a much different Pirate team the rest of the weekend.  Saturday East Carolina seemed ready to use whatever means necessary to score runs.  ECU used sacrifices whenever possible to advance runners.  At one point in the game the Pirates executed a perfect double steal that set up a run.  In watching every game last season, I don't remember the Pirates pulling that off a single time.

Despite an early deficit ECU went on to win game two 7-4.  Game three had the same competitive feel as the first two, until the sixth inning that is.  East Carolina blew it wide open in the sixth scoring seven runs in the frame, more than they had in the first two games combined.  ECU went on to win 11-2 to take the series. 

It's only week two of the season, and we certainly don't want to take too much from the opening weekend, but here are some good and bad signs from the Liberty series. 

Positive Signs:   The Pirates are doing whatever it takes to score runs, and maybe more importantly it's working.  The two left-handed starters (Ostrander, Sasser) were tough going six innings each in their first appearances.  The bullpen has been excellent.  In 11.1 combined innings pitched the bullpen has allowed just two runs, with 14 strikeouts.  Shane Matthews is one for one as closer; he also came in with a solid effort in game three in a non-save situation.  Drew Schieber hit his first career home run in his first at bat of the season.  ECU scored more runs in each successive game it played, and Liberty scored less.

Negative signs: The Pirates need a better effort out of Friday starter TJ Hose.  No secret there and I'm sure Hose knows it more than the rest of us.  The Pirates committed six errors in the series, half of them by Stephen Batts.  They will need to be very good defensively to win with this schedule. Six errors won't cut it, but overall I thought the defense was solid.  The guys seemed to struggle to produce anything in the form of offense in game one.  You can call it opening day jitters, but even when the Pirates got into the Liberty bullpen they could only manage one hit in five innings.  Liberty's number one starter and reliever may be pretty good, but I assure you they will see better.

Again not much can be taken away after only one weekend of play.  The Pirates true test comes this weekend.  East Carolina is on the road at UCLA which had been ranked as high as # 11 nationally.  That ranking will most certainly drop after the Bruins were swept by fifth ranked Miami.

Don't let that fool you about the Bruins this year.  Being swept by a top-five team is no disgrace, especially after a one to nothing loss in game one.  UCLA ace pitcher Tyson Brummett has been on fire pitching 15.2 innings allowing only two runs.  Brummett is now 1-1 after the one run loss to Miami.  The Bruins also scored 19 runs in a win over Winthrop the previous weekend. 

After they travel to Los Angeles, we'll get a chance to see how the Pirates will play on the road, how the players respond to the travel, and not to mention how they respond to playing against a nationally respected opponent. 

Josh Spence
josh@pirateradio1250.com