Busy Sports Weekend
by Josh Spence

It's hard to focus on just one topic with so much going on.  Instead, here's my look at the past weekend in sports.

Daytona 500:

The longest season in sports is officially underway.  The Nextel Cup guys got the February through November schedule started with the Daytona 500 last weekend.  A week full of controversy ended in one of the most spectacular finishes in NASCAR history.  Spectacular of course depends on your point of view.  What was a pretty boring event for the most part, took a turn towards entertainment when the man that everyone expected to run away with the event crashed and took some friends with him.  Tony Stewart was leading when he got help from Kurt Busch and wrecked on lap 154.  From there the race turned into a "wreck-fest".  Notables Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Jeff Gordon, and Greg Biffle joined Stewart and Busch on the list of those involved in a number of incidents.  The carnage culminated in the last lap "big one" that saw Clint Bowyer cross the finish line on his roof.  Oh yeah, and Kevin Harvick beat fan favorite Mark Martin by a nose, in one of the closest finishes in NASCAR history. 

ECU Baseball:

For the third time in the last four years the ECU Baseball Pirates finished 0-3 in a highly anticipated early season series on the west coast.  Reminiscent of the Pirates' series at Cal State Fullerton last year, and at Arizona State in 2004, the Pirates were unable to win at UCLA last weekend, though they were pretty close.  ECU lost a heartbreaker on Saturday 9-7 in a game that saw the lead exchange hands seven times.  The last time came in the bottom of the eighth on a UCLA grand slam off of ECU closer Shane Matthews.  Sunday the Pirates fought back late scoring four runs in the final three innings to lose 7-6.  The Pirates showed positive signs in the final two games, after being dominated in game one by stud pitcher Tyson Brummett.  Harrison Eldridge has been very good for the Pirates, while Brandon Henderson and Dale Mollenhauer are hitting the ball well also.  The pitching has been the problem for the Pirates, an area many expected to be the strength.  ECU has allowed 6-plus runs in four of their six contests The Pirates have scored less than 6 runs only twice, both instances against the opponent's ace pitcher.

ECU Hockey:
What a weekend for the hockey Pirates.  We had the call of both games on Pirate Radio as ECU met Radford and wrapped up the regular season with the final two games.  ECU outscored Radford 28-6 in two games.  Yes 28 goals in two games.  18 of them came in game one Friday night in an effort that exceeded anything I have ever heard of in hockey at any level.  In only their second season the Pirates are Blue Ridge Hockey Conference champions and will have the benefit of a first round bye as the number one seed at the conference tournament February 23rd-25th.  Congratulations and good luck to the ECU Hockey team. 

ECU Lady Pirate Basketball:
Aside from the hockey team, East Carolina's top current team would have to be the Lady Pirate basketball team.  The Lady Pirates (14-13, 9-5) have won five straight games, all in conference, including a win over league leading Tulane on Saturday.  The win streak has seen a couple of Pirate blowouts, but has also featured the ladies winning some close games.  The Pirates beat UTEP after a technical foul during the last 10 seconds gave ECU the chance to erase a two point deficit with four free throws.  Cherie Mills drained all four.  That came just days after ECU beat Tulsa with a Jasmine Young buzzer beater on ESPN 2.  It's obvious that a difficult non-conference schedule featuring the likes of Florida State, NC State and Pitt has prepared the Pirates for a run in conference.  ECU plays its final two games on the road at Southern Miss. Thursday and then at UCF on Saturday, before heading to the conference tournament March 1st.

ECU Basketball:

It's been a rough year for the ECU men's basketball team, and the Pirates are piling up negative recognition.  East Carolina will try to snap a 12 game losing streak, a mark that ties the team's longest stretch of consecutive losses ever, when they take on Marshall on February 21st.  The Pirates have the second lowest free-throw shooting percentage in division 1 basketball.  Out of 325 teams in division 1, only 15 score fewer points per game than ECU.  The Pirates wrap up their home schedule Saturday the 24th against UTEP. 

Josh Spence