ARTICLE OF THE DAY
by Josh Spence
It was a tough way to see
the season and several college careers come to an end. East
Carolina faced UNLV in what turned out to be their final game of the
2005 season. An elimination game in the “losers” bracket of the
NCAA Regionals. The Pirates played good enough to win on Friday, but
fell short against host team Arizona State. Ricky Brooks drew the
start for the Pirates on Saturday, and pitched the game of his
life. Unfortunately it will likely be his last in a Pirate
It is hard to believe, but a guy that was one ninth inning hit away
from two no-hitters this season, had an even more impressive outing
this past Saturday. The elimination game versus UNLV put the
Pirates with their back to the wall and the season on the line.
UNLV was touted as a heavy hitting club, averaging better than eight
runs per game. With ECU’s strong offense, the game was slated as
a slugfest. That couldn’t have been farther from reality, until
the late innings. East Carolina struggled early offensively,
totaling one hit though the first six innings. However, the
Pirates turned it on in the seventh as Mark Minicozzi led off the
inning with the solo home run. Adam Witter tripled in the next at
bat, and was brought home on a Drew Coztanzo single. The Pirates
then added another run in the eighth, taking a 3-0 lead, which at the
time seemed insurmountable.
Meanwhile Pirate Pitcher Ricky Brooks had put the game on cruise
control, allowing only four hits and no runs through eight. Ricky
had been through it all that day. In the early innings the Pirate
hurler struggled to find the strike zone and found himself in trouble
early and often. The Rebels loaded the bases in the first inning,
but Ricky pitched out of it. Brooks didn’t allow a single hit but
UNLV filled the bases again in the fourth, this time with no outs, but
again Ricky pitched out of it. Everything was coming up purple
and gold, when ECU carried the 3-0 lead into the top of the ninth, and
then it happened. Coach Mazey was reluctant to allow Brooks to go
back out for the ninth, but Ricky struck out the first batter of the
frame, and the Pirates were two outs away. The chain of events
that happened next would spell the end of the Pirates season.
Brooks gave up a double to the next batter in the 9th. Then, in a
move he says he would do 100 more times, Coach Mazey made the call for
a new pitcher to close it out. After all Brooks had topped 140
pitches, a number unheard of for a college pitcher. The Pirates
then brought in three more pitchers in the ninth, but the Rebel bats
had been awakened. With Pirate pitchers unable to close it out, a
five run ninth inning for UNLV moved them into the next round, and sent
the Pirates home wandering, what if. What if Kevin Rhodes hadn’t
been hit in the face with an errant ball during warm-ups? Could
he have gotten it done? What if TJ Hose hadn’t had to lead the team in
innings pitched as a freshman, and would have been available this
season as a closer?
It was a nearly appropriate ending to a season of what-ifs. All
in all, you have to be impressed with the team, and the coaching
staff. Unlike the talent-laden squad from a year ago, this
youthful Pirate squad and the coaches, had to give it all in every
victory; a trend that has taken its toll. Not only will the
Pirates lose five seniors, there will be other changes as well.
Assistant Coach Allen Osborne is on his way back to Georgia.
According to team sources, eight year assistant coach Tommy Eason is on
his way out as well. And of course the dreaded MLB draft.
Like the 2004 squad, several players could be on their way to the big
leagues. I would say Ricky Brooks is gone. It all depends
on if his draft number is high enough, and the price is right. (Which
go hand in hand). I wish it wouldn’t happen, but that is selfish,
because Ricky deserves everything he gets. Just from what I saw
after the game, I would say that Junior third baseman, Mark Minicozzi
is gone as well. Other names could come up, but my guess is that
those are the only two that will take the chance to play pro, over
another year at ECU.
Next year will have an entirely different feel for the Pirates, maybe
more like 2004. After all, ECU will have several pitchers back
from that 2004 team that missed this year due to injury. Add to
that a new crop of young talent, and coaches, and some current young
players with big-game experience, and the future looks bright for
Pirate baseball. Congratulations and good luck to the
Pirate seniors, and those departing early, including the coaches.
Next year is sure to be a good one, until then Go Pirates!