Coaches of the Year
by Josh Spence

Let me put in my selection now for college baseball's coaching staff of the year.  The job the ECU staff (Mazey, Eason, and Osborne) has done this year to overcome adversity is nothing short of incredible.  This past weekend the Pirates went to Birmingham, Alabama for the biggest series of the year and probably the one of the biggest regular season series in the career of coach Mazey and the Pirates.  Going in, both teams were tied at 13-11, for fifth in the conference standings, neither guaranteed a spot in the conference tournament, much less an NCAA regional.  East Carolina won their sixth consecutive Conference USA series in decisive fashion, sweeping UAB three games to none.  Not only did the Pirates secure a conference tournament berth, but they put themselves in position to fight for the third seed.

There is no question of the enormous talent this Pirate baseball team possesses.  However, when you look at how much of that talent was lost last year to the MLB draft and consider the number of injuries the current team has endured, the coaching has to stand out as a big reason for success.  No, the Pirates are not on pace to win fifty games this year, but they are 32-20 overall, and five games above .500 in a difficult baseball conference.  Consider that an underachievement?  Please see ECU's football and basketball record over the past few years. 

Think about the amount of help the Pirates have gotten from freshmen this year.  A combined 112 starts for position players Harrsion Eldridge, Dale Mollenhauer, and Ryan Peisel.  All three have been huge in the field for East Carolina.  Plus all three are among the top six Pirates in batting average.  What about T.J. Hose?  The freshman right-hander has flourished all year, but especially since stepping up to the starting role.  The Pirates are 7-0 when T.J. starts, and Hose is in second place Conference USA in opponents batting average (.203). 

Again there is no question about the talent of these players.  Full potential however, cannot be realized without guidance.  The job that has been performed by the entire coaching staff has been extremely commendable.  After all, let's not forget who recruited this young talent in the first place.  Another mark of a fine coaching staff is the marked improvement of so many players.  There is something to be said for increased playing time and improving a player's consistency, but several Pirates have excelled this season compared to previous accomplishments.  Billy Richardson, for starters, went from hitting in the nine-hole last year, to lead-off man, and before he was hurt, he was a candidate for Conference player-of-the-year honors.  For the season, Brian Cavanaugh has nearly doubled his career batting average, and more than doubled his career total for home runs.  Adam Witter has also shown substantial improvement.  Ricky Brooks went from last year's 2-3 record with an E.R.A. of 6.32, to a 5-4 record with a 3.73 E.R.A., and was a ninth inning single away from two no-hitters on the year.

Congratulations in advance to the Pirate coaches and players for this year's accomplishments.  No matter what happens the rest of the year, I will be impressed by this team's success, and don't be surprised if this team makes a run in the post-season.

Josh Spence