March Happiness
by Josh Spence

Something happened to the East Carolina baseball team on February 21st, 2007.  On that day the Pirates appeared to have fallen to a new low.  ECU was attempting to rebound from a disappointing season that saw them miss the NCAA tournament for the first time in eight years.  On that Wednesday in February, an NCAA tournament berth already seemed out of reach. 

The Pirates had just lost to Campbell University in a series they have dominated, losing for just the 18th time in 66 tries.  To make it worse, the Pirates lost 2-0, suffering their first shutout loss of the year.  The loss also marked the Pirates' fourth in a row, and dropped ECU to 2-5 on the season.  At that point, with no real quality wins, the outlook was bleak for ECU baseball. 

But something seemed to happen that day.  As if someone flipped a switch, the Pirates have been a different team since then.  Head Coach Billy Godwin agreed.  "Yeah, we talked about a lot.  I think the thing we really honed in on was leadership and accountability." 

Since that point ECU is 11-1, with the only loss coming in extra innings to nationally ranked NC State.  Along the way the Pirates have knocked off 12th ranked Pepperdine, and have just completed a sweep of 6th ranked Cal State Fullerton, the Pirates first ever sweep of a top ten team.  Add to that wins over Washington which has won five straight, Duke (15-4), and Western Carolina (9-6). 

The success has been predicated on a team effort that emphasizes every phase of the game.  The Pirate bats have come alive in the last ten games, but stellar pitching has been the real story.  Through the first two games against Cal State Fullerton, East Carolina had allowed six hits and only one run.  Starters TJ Hose, Dustin Sasser and Josh Dowdy have all been excellent over the last two weeks.  If the starting pitching can continue this way with the depth this team has in the bullpen, this could be a big year for ECU baseball. 

The Pirates blistered Titans pitching all weekend scoring a total of 20 runs in the series.  That includes scoring eight runs (3 earned) off of Titans pitcher Sean Urena, who was named co-national player of the week last week, after a complete game one-hit shutout of Rice.  The Pirates got six hits and three walks off of the freshman before sending him to the showers after only 2.2 innings.

The one thing the Pirates haven't proven yet is the ability to win on the road.  That may have been the biggest reason the Pirates didn't make an NCAA regional last year.  A 4-15 road record last year cost this team dearly, as it does any team come selection time.  Just ask any team that didn't qualify for basketballs field of 65. 

Right now ECU is about half way through a 21 game home stand.  East Carolina is 10-1 in that stretch and has proven thus far the ability to win the big ones at home.  If they can get it done on the road remains to be seen.  The Pirates have only three games under their belt in competition away from Clark-LeClair stadium.  They were swept in three games at UCLA despite a pretty good effort in games two and three.

The sweep of Cal State Fullerton was big for this team in terms of gaining national attention as ECU has cracked the top 25 for the first time in two years.  The Pirates have proven they can pitch and hit with the big boys.  The key now lies in keeping the momentum going, but more importantly winning the games you should win.  It's time now for the Pirates to pick up numbers in the win category, because the big wins are there. 

Josh Spence