first time since 1998 the East Carolina Baseball team will not be
participating in the NCAA tournament. East Carolina finished the
year 33-26, after a 1-2 performance in the C-USA tournament.
Here’s a look at the leading headlines heading into the off-season as
we look ahead to 2007.
The Pirates say goodbye to eight seniors following the ’06
The Pirates will lose four pitchers and four position players to
graduation. Right now it’s hard to say where the biggest loss
will be felt. The Pirates lose starter and 2nd team all C-USA
performer Brody Taylor whose stellar season (not to mention career) was
a big part of the success the Pirates did have. In addition ECU
says goodbye to Carter Harrell, Kevin Rhodes, and Scott Andrews who all
provided depth in the bullpen in their respective careers. All
three were above average players that will be
The biggest loss however could be offensively. The 2007 Pirates
will be without the services of the “Bash-Brothers”, Adam Witter and
Jake Smith. The two earned the title by slugging nearly half of
the Pirates home-runs (27), nearly a third of the teams runs batted in
(107), and more than a quarter of the team’s doubles (28). Both
slugged better than .544 and proved to be a thorn in the side of
opposing pitching, hitting 3-4 in the lineup. The two will be
sorely missed and the loss leaves a huge void offensively in the
The Pirates also lose starting centerfielder Jay Mattox and back-up
catcher Adam Hodges. Mattox lead the Pirates in stolen bases with
14 in ’06, and can be a five-tool player with the ability to play at
the next level. Injuries have slowed his career, but given the
right opportunity Mattox may have the best shot of any position player
in pro-ball. Hodges was a role-player that came up big in many
key late inning situations as a pinch-hitter. Always a fun guy to
be around, Hodges will be missed in the locker room.
That does it for the seniors, but maybe not the departures.
Several players are “draft eligible” this year. A player is
eligible for the draft after his junior year, or his 21st birthday,
whichever comes first. Headlining the list of eligible players
for the Pirates are Shane Matthews, and Dustin Sasser. Matthews
got off to a slow start in ’06 after returning from injury, but had a
very solid last half that included a stellar, one-run, near
complete-game performance against Tulane in the C-USA tourney.
Sasser also had a good year and as a strong lefty, is a valuable asset
to pro scouts. Likely both rising juniors will be drafted at some
point, and will have to make a decision to turn pro or return to the
Pirates next year. Shane closed out the year on a very positive
note and will play in the highly touted Cape Cod League this
summer. His performance over the next few months will hugely
impact his pro value, and in turn his decision on where to play.
Next year will yet again hold many changes for the Pirate baseball
program. ECU boasts what appears to be another strong recruiting
class, and will rely heavily on some of the new players. The
Pirates are also reportedly looking at several other transfers to
bolster the lineup. ECU will also need to fill the Director of
Baseball Operations position vacated by former assistant Ryan
Riley. Riley will return to his hometown in Seattle, Washington
to pursue a career outside of baseball.
Unfortunately the Pirates are not playing in NCAA tournament for the
first time in quite a while. Nobody takes that harder than Pirate
head man Billy Godwin. Coach Godwin took full responsibility for
the team’s record this year, and made it clear that this season was not
acceptable. The season turns out to be a one of what could have
been. If you look at some of the close games the Pirates lost,
and some in which ECU gave up early leads, the Pirates were knocking on
the door of a great season. With a break here or there, ECU could
have been sitting at forty-plus wins. It wasn’t meant to be this
year, but now the Pirates begin the long preparation to get back on the
“Road to Omaha” for 2007.