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.

Josh Spence