the ECU baseball team has come full circle under coach Billy Godwin may
be premature. After all, the Pirates are a season removed from
missing the NCAA tournament for only the first time since 1998.
However, winners of their last 13 games, and 17 of their last 18, ECU
is trying to make sure that this year is nothing like last year.
So far it's been almost opposite.
In 2006 the Pirates went 10-14 in Conference USA play. Heading
into the last series of the conference schedule, the Pirates had a
chance to finish above .500 in the league. Their opponent would
be Memphis, an upstart team that was trying to pull itself out of the
C-USA cellar. Optimistic, the Pirates traveled to Memphis looking
to close out the regular year on a positive note in anticipation of
another postseason chance. The optimism lasted until the bottom
of the ninth inning in game one.
Leading 6-5 heading into the final frame, the Pirates gave up a
walk-off grand slam to lose 9-6. The next day it was more of the
same as Memphis used more heavy hitting to win game two 14-6. The
fireworks continued in a high scoring game three. In a game that
saw a combined 10 home runs, Memphis got a walk off hit in the bottom
of the ninth to win 11-10 and sweep the series. The Pirates left
heartbroken. Words can't describe the feeling on the team bus
that day. Not only had the Pirates scored 22 runs with no wins to
show for it, but their post season hopes were all but dashed as
What a difference a year makes. The 2007 Pirates are coming off
of an impressive series sweep of largely the same Memphis team.
The conference season opening series for both teams was strangely
familiar to the series that ended the conference slate for both last
year, just opposite. After the Tigers took a 10-4 advantage in
the top of the sixth of game one on Friday, the tables turned.
The Pirates used three-run homeruns by Drew Schieber and Dale
Mollenhauer and scored the final eight runs of the game and win
12-10. From there the Pirates didn't look back. After that
eight-run sixth inning by Memphis, the Pirates outscored the Tigers
31-1 the rest of the series to complete the sweep.
With that sweep the Pirates have now successfully avenged two series
sweeps from 2006. The Pirates were swept three times last
year. Cal State Fullerton, Memphis and Southern Miss held that
distinction. Two down, one to go.
The recent success has garnered the Pirates some national
attention. Several players have been named to the College
Baseball Foundation National Honor Roll, and the Pirates have seen
their national ranking increase each week since first entering the
polls in early March.
The next nine games will tell the true tale. Wednesday night the
Pirates host UNCW to complete a 20 game home-stand. It will be
the first of two always competitive games with the Seahawks in the next
two weeks. Then this weekend its back on the road as the Pirates
head to New Orleans to take on perennial power Tulane. ECU then
plays a midweek contest at nationally ranked NC State before heading
back home to face top-10 ranked Rice.
The Pirates schedule following those nine games is no picnic, with
series against Southern Miss, Houston, and UCF and a pair of midweek
games against top 10 ranked North Carolina. However, over the
next nine I think we'll get to see just how good this team really
is. In fact, the next nine games for the Pirates might be as
tough as any team in the country.
The true test remains to be winning on the road, something in all their
success the Pirates have not done this year. In fact under head
coach Billy Godwin the Pirates have a mere 4-18 record on the
road. Proving the ability to once again win away from the
friendly confines of Clark LeClair Stadium might be enough to get ECU
back to the postseason, and bring the Pirates full circle.