Spring Success Puts Pirates Among NCAA Elite
June 2, 2011
GREENVILLE, N.C. - With the baseball team's selection to the Charlottesville Regional earlier this week, East Carolina stands as one of only 14 schools nationally with spring NCAA post-season representation in baseball, softball, men's and women's golf and men's and women's track and field.
ECU is the only BCS non-automatic qualifying institution among the group, which consists of Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, California, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Texas, Texas A&M and UCLA.
Armed with an overall record of 39-19, the Pirates will make their 25th NCAA baseball regional appearance and 11th in the last 13 seasons when they battle St. John's Friday in Charlottesville. East Carolina has garnered 39 or more wins in four of six seasons under head coach Billy Godwin (40 in 2007, 42 in 2008 and 46 in 2009). Ranked No. 23 this week by Baseball America, ECU was the only non-Atlantic Coast Conference squad to defeat Virginia this season, in a 4-3 decision Feb. 27 at Davenport Field.
The Pirates are buoyed by a pitching staff which at one time this season boasted the nation's lowest earned-run average. Entering the NCAA Tournament, East Carolina's pitchers own a collective 2.58 ERA - the seventh-best mark in the NCAA Division I statistics. ECU is also tied for ninth in shutouts (9) and 10th in earned runs allowed (151).
The softball squad (41-22), which reached the 40-win plateau for the third-straight year, finished fifth in the regular season Conference USA league standings before defeating No. 4 seed Memphis, top-seeded Houston and No. 2 seed Tulsa on consecutive days at the ECU Softball Stadium to capture its second-straight league tournament title.
The Pirates then traveled to the College Park Regional and reached the championship game before falling to No. 11 national seed Baylor 1-0. Along the way, ECU eliminated Maryland with 5-2 and 2-0 scores as the Pirates knocked out the host team for the second-straight year. Back-to-back regional final appearances also made East Carolina one of only two C-USA schools (Houston/2007-08) to play on the final day of a regional two-straight years since the tournament went to the regional-super regional-Women's College World Series format in 2005.
Senior Toni Paisley, who was named Conference USA Pitcher-of-the-Year for the third-straight campaign, ended her collegiate career with the 18th most victories and 17th most strikeouts in NCAA Division I history.
On the links, 2011 marked the first year in school history that both the men's and women's golf teams earned at-large NCAA regional bids.
The women, who traveled to the NCAA Central Regional hosted by Notre Dame to participate in their program-record fourth-straight, and seventh overall regional, ended the season with a 96-58-2 overall record. Additionally, for the 10th consecutive season, ECU was recognized with All-Conference USA accolades highlighted by Fanny Wolte's selections to the first team and as the league's freshman-of-the-year. Senior Amber Littman and junior Amy Otteson also earned recognition on the second and third teams, respectively.
Meanwhile, with two nationally-ranked players on its roster, the men's squad headed to Radford, Va., to battle a regional field filled with some of the NCAA's best. Joining the 39th-ranked Pirates at the site were four Top 20 teams in No. 5 Georgia Tech, No. 9 LSU, No. 16 Duke and No. 18 Virginia. ECU took ninth at the regional, ending its season with an overall record of 122-48-2.
Juniors Harold Varner and David Watkins took home All-Conference USA First-Team and PING All-Region honors, and currently stand in the top 100 of the Golfweek rankings at 27th and 84th, respectively. Both players also captured a share of 19th-place at the NCAA regional.
Rounding out the spring success for East Carolina are the men's and women's track and field squads. The Pirates sent a program single-season record 15 athletes to the NCAA East Regional at the University of Indiana from which four qualified to compete in the NCAA Outdoor Championships June 8-11 in Des Moines, Iowa.
The four Pirates represent the most that have qualified for the outdoor national meet in the history of the women's program in one year of competition. Impressively, all four are underclassmen in freshmen Aiesha Goggins, Tyshonda Hawkins and Tania Minkins as well as sophomore Tiffany Harris.
Goggins, who won both the indoor and outdoor C-USA title in the 400-meter dash while also setting the league's indoor meet record, posted the sixth-fastest regional time at 52.61 and should be a favorite to earn All-America accolades in Iowa. She joins the remaining 4x400 relay members which finished sixth in Indiana with a school-record time of 3:35.75 to book a spot in the national meet. The quartet was nearly joined by junior Dennis Aliotta in Des Moines, but his shot put mark of 17.88 meters left him one spot and just .03 meters short of qualification.
East Carolina's post-season presence during the 2010-11 academic year is not limited to just the spring. The Pirates made their fifth-straight bowl appearance when ECU battled Maryland in the Military Bowl, while the men's basketball team earned a bid to the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament and hosted Jacksonville in the first round.