Showdown in The Big Easy
by Josh Spence

No matter how you slice it, 3 losses is a tough way to start the conference season. So why is Coach Mazey more impressed with his team today than he was last Thursday? Heart, determination and a team that he knows will fight to the end.

It was a much anticipated battle between the teams picked first and third in the Conference USA pre-season coaches poll. To say the least, the match-up did not disappoint. Despite three losses to the team now ranked second in the country by Baseball America, the Pirates got their message across.

ECU came into the series 12-0 in games in which they scored first this season. On Friday it looked like the Pirates were on their way to extending that mark, scoring 3 in the first, and adding one more in the second to take a 4-0 lead over the Green Wave. Even when Tulane nit-picked their way back into the game, eventually tying it in the 6th, and going up 1 off a Joe Holland home run in the seventh, the Pirates still showed poise.

East Carolina batted in the top of the ninth trailing 5-4, 3 outs away from defeat. With Brian Cavanaugh on first after a one-out single, Pirate Freshman Harrison Eldridge came to the plate. With the biggest hit of his young career, Harrison doubled off of the right field wall bringing home the speedy Cavanaugh from first, and tying the game at 5.

That game ended in heartbreaking defeat on a walk-off home-run by Nathan Southard on the first pitch in the bottom of the ninth. Two of the best teams in the country battling head-to-head giving every ounce of what they had and fighting to the end. It is exactly what collegiate athletics is all about.

Game 3 started almost exactly the same way as game 1. This time, however, it was pre-season Conference USA player of the year Brian Boguesevic on the mound for Tulane. The Pirates jumped on Boguesevic early, scoring 3 in the first. The Tulane pitcher then appeared to settle in as his team took a 4-3 lead into the fifth, but Pirate catcher Jake Smith made short work of his comfort zone. Jake emphatically ended a hitting slump with his first hit of the series, a 2-run homerun to left giving the Pirates the 6-4 lead.

The ball game then fell into the hands of another Pirate Freshman, pitcher T.J Hose. Hose came in and relieved Jeff Ostrander in the fourth inning. Coach Mazey told us the day before that Hose's fresh arm would be first out of the Pirate bullpen. T.J. was incredible, giving up no hits through his first 3 innings. Especially impressive, considering his longest prior outing was three innings. However, Hose gave up his only 4 hits of the game in the eighth and final inning, allowing Tulane to tie. The Green Wave took the lead off four runs in the final frame, ending the game in another tough Pirate loss.

I can't say enough about the young players on this team. Hose will be a great pitcher for the Pirates in the coming years. Eldridge, Peisel, Mollenhauer, and Ray have all shown the ability to hit the ball, not to mention their top notch fielding abilities. With tough losses like the ones over the weekend comes experience. Don't forget, Tulane is now ranked second in the country. If this series were played in Greenville, the outcome for the Pirates might have been different. With the poise shown by this young Pirate team during this series, it's easy to see why Coach Mazey knows this team will be fine.

Josh Spence