ARTICLE OF THE DAY
Mountain of Youth
by Josh Spence
Exactly one year ago, the
East Carolina baseball team was in the midst of a school and Conference
USA record 19-game winning streak. What a difference a year makes. Of
course a lot was lost from that team. Seven players were taken in the
MLB first year player draft, five of which left the team with
eligibility remaining. However expectations were still high coming into
this year. Depth has been a staple of Pirate baseball over the past few
years, and a crop of highly rated new talent was coming in.
The Pirates won a huge series against the 27th ranked Southern Miss
Golden Eagles this weekend, in part due to the contribution of several
freshmen. After dropping game one in disappointing fashion 12-6 on
Friday, ECU responded with resounding victories on Saturday and Sunday
to take the series. It was the Pirates first conference series win of
the season, and it couldn’t have come at a more crucial time.
The amount of injuries this team has had to deal with is becoming
unbearable. Coming into the year the attrition on the pitching
staff was well documented. The Pirates would be without Dustin
Sasser after off-season Tommy John surgery, and the possibility that
Brody Taylor and Carter Harrell would miss significant time was
real. The start of the year, however, brought more injuries.
Projected starter Shane Matthews went down early after making only one
start, and then the loss of Jeff Ostrander recently was another big
blow. Aside from that, throughout the year the Pirates have now
seen an injury at every single position in the field, with the
exception of first base, and catcher…knock on wood.
At times there have been five freshmen in the starting lineup for the
Pirates. Instead of becoming a detriment, the freshmen have been
huge for East Carolina. This weekend for example, Dale Mollenhauer
continued his hot hitting for the Pirates, extending his hitting streak
now to seven games. Freshman first baseman Ryan Peisel stepped up
to play third base with Mark Minicozzi out of the line-up, handling the
hot corner masterfully for ECU and adding 2 hits in every game of the
series. Freshman center fielder Jamie Ray also played well in
center, and had four hits in ten at-bats in the series. Freshman
pitcher T.J. Hose who had been the closer for the Pirates, stepped up
big in his first start Saturday, pitching a career long six and one
third, and giving the Pirates a good shot to win.
The contributions of the Pirate youngsters have been and will continue
to be extremely important to the team’s success this year. The
talent of these young players speaks loudly for the future of this
program. From what I understand, the recruits coming in 2006 are
expected to be just as good, if not better than this group. The
only problem is convincing them to choose college over a chance to play
professionally right away.