ARTICLE OF THE DAY
Pirates and Wolfpack: Round 1
by Josh Spence
night marks the first of three match-ups on the year for ECU and NC
State on the baseball diamond. The two teams renew a rivalry over
forty years old when the Pirates travel to Raleigh at 7:00. For
both teams the series could prove pivotal come seasons end.
Ever-important quality wins will be on the line with both teams
receiving some respect on the national landscape.
NC State (21-8) recently dropped from the Baseball America top 25
having lost four in a row including being swept at Clemson in an ACC
series last weekend. However, despite the tough week the
Wolfpack, stayed in at number 17 in the coach’s poll, showing respect
from the country’s coaches.
East Carolina (17-9) is coming off a conference opening series loss,
two games to one at new conference member and pre-season favorite
Rice. Despite losing games two and three, the Pirates pulled off
a win over the highest ranked opponent in school history (Rice was #2)
on Friday night.
Wednesdays contest marks number 91 between the two teams, with NC State
leading the all time series 55-35. Most recently the teams met
four times last year with NC State winning three of the four. The
Pirates got a 13-1 win over State early in the year at the Homewood
Suites Shootout in Charleston, SC, but it was all Pack the rest of the
year. State won 11-4 in Raleigh before taking a pair of 3-0
victories in Greenville.
The pirates could need wins like this towards the end of the
year. Last year the Pirates were given an at-large bid to play in
the team’s seventh consecutive NCAA tournament, but had to watch the
selection show to see if they got in. It was that close.
The team had a 35-24 record heading into selection day. Of course
one of the Pirates goals will be to host the regional round of the
tournament this year. Last year eleven of the sixteen regional
hosts finished the regular and conference seasons (including conference
tournaments) with forty or more wins. The Pirates would have to
finish 23-7 to reach forty in the regular season, not counting what the
team would do in the CUSA tournament.
Twenty-one of the Pirates remaining thirty games will be in Conference
USA. In a conference that boasts eight of its nine members with
winning records, wins won’t come easy. Therein lays the
importance of these mid-week showdowns with non-conference
opponents. The NC State games in addition to midweek meetings
with Coastal Carolina highlight the Pirates midweek chances.
A tough conference schedule should help the Pirates come selection day,
especially if they play like they did at Rice last weekend.
Although the Pirates won only once, they can hold their heads high
following a solid performance all weekend long. The lack of
timely hits, and missed defensive assignments made the difference in
the Saturday and Sunday losses. The same could not be said of the
Pirates trip to Cal State Fullerton.
In addition to key victories lately, wins by former Pirate opponents
may have lessened the blow of some of the team’s losses. Maryland
has pulled off wins against nationally ranked ACC foes Miami, and at
UNC. Virginia Tech recently won series against UNC, and UVA and
also won one game at NC State.
Things are moving in the right direction for ECU baseball.
However, for things to continue that way the team will need to find a
better rhythm at the plate. ECU’s team bating average has fallen
to .274, while pitching has been excellent for the most part.
Brody Taylor looks to be a great addition to the weekend rotation after
a very solid performance against Rice last Sunday. It gives the
Pirates two southpaws on the weekend and very capable starter Shane
Mathews mid-week. The combo of starting pitching and exceptional
relief will need to continue for the Pirates to excel.
ECU plays its second conference series of the year against Houston this
weekend in Greenville, after taking on NC State in Raleigh Wednesday
night. Remember you can hear every ECU baseball game right here
on Pirate Radio 1250 & 930, “The Home of the Pirates!”