ARTICLE OF THE DAY
the road to Omaha
by Josh Spence
early, but the start of the 2005 season already has a much different
feel for East Carolina Baseball, than the start of 2004. First of
all, in 2004 the Pirates opened with 12 straight wins, and an
impressive 18-3 start to an unforgettable year. ECU started 2004
with 8 straight home games, and played 19 of their first 23 at home,
much different than this year of course. East Carolina is 5-3 as
the Pirates were forced to open with 8 consecutive road contests, due
to the completion of the brand new Clark-LeClair stadium.
Another big difference
is the decision of the Pirate Sports Network to
carry complete coverage of the Pirates 56 game schedule, a first in the
history of ECU baseball. This gives many fans the much welcomed
chance to follow the team every step of the way.
Gone are 7 Pirates from
2004 to the major Leagues, 5 of which made
their own decision to leave the program, rather than finish out their
college eligibility. The pirates lost 70% of their home run
production from a year ago, and return only 3 position starters in the
field. Combine that with the numerous injuries to the Pirate
pitching staff, and it adds up to a lot of questions coming into this
Well if you ask me,
those questions have been answered. Although
the Pirates are a modest 5-3 through their first 8 games, the team has
shown tremendous promise. Offensively, the Pirates lead the
conference in batting average (.348) and are currently tied for 2nd in
Conference USA with 11 home runs. That despite the fact that the
team they trail, Tulane who leads the league with 12 homers, has played
in eleven games, and the team they are tied with TCU, has already
played ten games. East Carolina has found the offense as of late and
through 8 games, the Pirates have yet to score less than 5 runs, and
also have no less than 10 hits.
Coming into the season
the Pirate Pitching staff was probably at the
top of the list of questions for most people. Of course the
Pirates are without last years ace, and 2004 Conference USA pitcher of
the year, Greg Bunn. Also missing are closers Dustin Sasser and
Matt Bishop among others. Sasser who will miss the 2005 season
due to Tommy John surgery, led the Pirates in appearances last year
with 20, while Bishop tied for the team lead for relievers with 36
strikeouts, before negating his final year of eligibility to play in
the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.
As far as starters go,
Brody Taylor, who was projected to be one of the
Pirate starters, stands to miss the majority of this season following
arm surgery in the off-season. Shane Matthews who also was
expected to be a starter has battled his own injuries. Despite
nursing an ankle injury, Shane made his only start in game 2 against
the College of Charleston, but just wasn’t the Conference USA all
freshman he was a year ago, pitching only three innings and giving up
10 hits and 5 runs.
Despite the injuries ECU
has made due with the emergence of some young
stars. P.J. Connelly has emerged as a probable starter for the
Pirates. P.J. leads all Pirates with 18 innings pitched and is
2-0. And how about Mike Flye? The Sophomore out of
Greenville, and JH Rose high school came almost out of nowhere to be
the Pirates top guy so far. Mike is 3-0 with huge performances in
the Pirate’s blowouts over nationally ranked Clemson, and NC
State. Flye gave up only 3 hits in both Pirate triumphs.
True freshman T.J. Hose has also been a pleasant surprise. T.J.
leads all Pirates in appearances with 4, and also has a team best
E.R.A. at 1.17.
So where’s the
recognition? East Carolina played it’s first 8
games on the road, and has picked up wins against several nationally
ranked opponents. Let’s also not forget the pirates 3 losses. Two
came at the College of Charleston, which is 20th in the Baseball
America Poll, and 30th in Collegiate Baseball. And the other came
to a Coastal Carolina team ranked 23rd by Collegiate Baseball. A
good showing at one of the countries top tournaments this weekend will
get ECU the recognition they deserve.