Tough Call
by Josh Spence

Remember those old "You Make The Call" football commercials?  They would re-live a scenario in a past football game where a referee had to make a judgment call, give you some choices and you would pick which was the right call.  Well, a situation in Saturday night's ECU-Charlotte baseball game reminded me of one of those commercials when it presented a nearly impossible choice.

East Carolina was carrying a 6-0 lead into the top half of the ninth inning and Ricky Brooks had been on the mound for the Pirates for the entire game.  Not only was he working on a complete game shutout of the 49ers, Ricky had yet to allow a hit.  Brooks retires the first two in the ninth.  Then, with two outs Adam Willard swings and hits the ball on the ground to the right of shortstop Dale Mollenhauer.  Dale turns and goes after the ball with everything he's got and as he tries to backhand it, the ball squirts off the side of his glove and rolls into left field. Hit or error, you make the call.

The decision actually fell into the hands of East Carolina Director of Media Relations Tom McClellan.  First of all, I am not agreeing, nor disagreeing with the call, what do I know?  I am merely acknowledging the guts and integrity it took to make what Tom felt was the right call. "It wasn't a routine play, the ball was sharply hit," Tom said.  With an entire press box full of media in agreement, that "H" showed up on the scoreboard.

Either way you look at it, someone would disagree.  If it was a hit obviously the Pirate fans, Ricky Brooks and Coach Mazey would be a little upset that the no-hitter was done.  But what if they called it an error?  Sure some would agree and think nothing of it, but there would be those who disagreed.  The possibility of Charlotte coaches, fans and media talking about the home cooking at ECU could question the credibility of the official scorer.  That's a lot of weight to put on one person's shoulders when having to make a quick decision on the spot.

More than that, McClellan had plenty of reason to want the no-hitter. "Who wouldn't want it from our standpoint," said McClellan.  As director of Media Relations, part of Tom's job is to glorify ECU sports in the eyes of the nation.  "Think of the recognition in Baseball America and other college baseball publications around the country.  The easy thing would have been to be a 'homer' and let it go," McClellan said.  "But that is unethical, and it's not how we do things at ECU."

Brooks struck out the final batter to emphatically finish his complete game, one-hit shutout.  For his efforts, Ricky Brooks was named Conference USA pitcher of the week.

No-hitter or not, Pirate fans in attendance saw one of the best pitching performances in recent memory, and here's hoping we see many more like it!

Josh Spence