Top Seeded ECU Takes On Stony Brook in First Round of Kinston Regional


Top Seeded ECU Takes On Stony Brook in First Round of Kinston Regional

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    East Carolina's quest for a trip to Omaha in 2004 continues this weekend when the Pirates host Stony Brook in the first round of the NCAA Kinston Regional. ECU snagged the No. 1 seed and serves as the host of the regional. ECU and the Seawolves will play the second game of the regional at 7 p.m. Friday. No. 3 seed UNC Wilmington and No. 2 seed Tennessee will open the regional Friday at 3 p.m. The winners of both games will face each other Saturday at 3 p.m. with the losers playing in an elimination game Saturday morning at 11 a.m. The Pirates are participating in their 20th NCAA Tournament and sixth consecutive. East Carolina has served as a No. 1 seed in 1999, 2000, 2001 and now 2004. Friday's game between Stony Brook and East Carolina will be the first meeting between the two schools. ECU is 1-2 against Tennessee and 56-50 against UNC Wilmington with the teams splitting this season's series, 1-1. The winner of the Kinston Regional advances to play the winner of the Columbia Regional next weekend in Super Regional play.

    East Carolina was selected to host one of 16 regional tournaments this weekend in the opening round of the NCAA Baseball Championship. The NCAA Kinston Regional will be held Friday through Sunday, June 4-6, at Grainger Stadium in Kinston, N.C. East Carolina is hosting a regional for the second time. The Pirates previously hosted a regional in Wilson, N.C. in 2001. The winner of the NCAA Kinston Regional advances to one of eight NCAA Super Regionals, scheduled for June 11-14 on campus sites. Along with East Carolina, NCAA Regionals will also be hosted by Arkansas, Cal State Fullerton, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, LSU, Miami, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Rice, South Carolina, Stanford, Texas, and Virginia. All regionals are campus sites except East Carolina (Grainger Stadium in Kinston, North Carolina) and Oklahoma (SBC Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City).

    East Carolina is participating in its 20th NCAA Regional dating back to the 1964 season. The Pirates' recorded their first ever regional victory that season with a win over West Virginia, but lost to North Carolina twice. ECU made three regional appearances in the 1960s, three in the 1970s, five in the 1980s, four in the 1990s and four in the 21st century. East Carolina has never been to the College World Series, but came within an eyelash in 2001; falling to Tennessee in the Super Regional.

    East Carolina cracked the top 8 in all four national collegiate polls. The Pirates are ranked No. 6 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writer's Association, 7th by Collegiate Baseball, No. 8 by Baseball America and 7th by the Sports Weekly Coaches Poll. ECU is also ranked 3rd among southeastern schools by ECU stands at 15th in the College RPI index released by

    No. 6 East Carolina captured its first regular season Conference USA title taking two games of a three game series at nationally ranked Southern Miss before going 1-2 in last week's Conference USA Tournament. ECU has won 29 of its last 33 games. The Pirates have reached the top 8 in all four national collegiate baseball polls this week including the No. 6 ranking. The Pirates have been ranked as high as No. 4 in the polls this season. East Carolina won nine straight Conference USA series to end the regular season and clinch the regular season crown. Junior first baseman Ryan Norwood pushed his school record for doubles in a season to 29 and set a new conference record for doubles in conference games in a single-season (21). In the last 11 games, the Pirate pitching staff has posted a 3.13 ERA including two shutouts in nationally ranked Southern Miss. The Pirates hit .327 as a team in last week's Conference USA tournament led by junior outfielder Drew Costanzo and senior catcher John Poppert who each hit .500. Junior first baseman Ryan Norwood hit .455 in the C-USA tournament finishing with a team-high five RBI.

    PIRATES EARN ALL-CONFERENCE HONORS Senior designated hitter Ryan Jones was the named the 2004 Conference USA Player of the Year while teammate Greg Bunn was named the 2004 Conference USA Pitcher of the Year announced by the league Tuesday. ECU head coach Randy Mazey was also named the 2004 C-USA Coach of the Year as the Pirates took three of the four top honors in the conference. Seven ECU players earned all-conference honors. Jones, Bunn, first baseman Ryan Norwood and second baseman Trevor Lawhorn were all named First team All-C-USA while senior outfielder Jamie Paige and junior outfielder Darryl Lawhorn earned second-team All-C-USA. Freshman right-hander Shane Mathews was named to the C-USA All-Freshman team.

    Stony Brook earned the America East Conference's automatic bid after defeating Maine, 3-1, in the America East Championship game. Isidro Fortuna was named the championship's most outstanding player, going 7-for-13 (.538 BA) with a double, two RBI, four runs scored. Fortuna was joined on the all-tournament team by Restivo, first baseman Mischo, second baseman Sipp, third baseman Theoharis, shortstop Devins and outfielder Andrew Larsen. Stony Brook will be making its first ever appearance in the double-elimination NCAA tournament. The Seawolves rely on their pitching staff which has posted a 4.49 ERA through 54 games led by Jon Lewis (7-6, 2.92 ERA) and Kevin Fitzgerald (7-2, 3.35 ERA). Offensively, the Seawolves are led by Matt Devins who is hitting .376 with 14 doubles and three home runs for 29 RBI. Nick Theoharis is the Seawolves' leading RBI guy with 47 RBI on 10 doubles and a team-high 11 home runs.

    East Carolina and Stony Brook meet for the first time on the baseball diamond Friday. The teams have played one common opponent in 2004 in Appalachian State. The Seawolves opened their season defeating the Mountaineers, 10-3, while the Pirates defeated Appalachian State, 8-1, in early March.

    Tennessee went 2-2 in last week's Southeastern Conference Tournament as the No. 8 seed and enters the Kinston Regional as the No. 2 seed. Outfielder Eli Iorg had four hits for the Vols in the first game and finished as UT's leading hitter at .462 (6-for-13) with a double and two RBI as he was named to the SEC All-Tournament Team. Tennessee is making its eighth appearance in the NCAA Tournament and first since 2001. The Volunteer pitching staff brings the best team ERA (3.48) into the regional led by Senior LHP Derek Tharpe (6-1, 2.14 ERA) and junior closer Scot Drucker (8-3, 2.65 ERA, 5 saves). Sophomore RHP Luke Hochevar has been the work-horse lately posting a 3-2 record with a 3.33 ERA. On offense, Iorg and Alex Suarez are the top threats. Suarez hits .337 with 1 doubles for 31 RBI while Iorg hits .330 with 10 doubles, six triples, three home runs and 35 RBI with a team-high 75 hits and 26 stolen bases.

    Stevie Daniel's grand slam highlighted a five-run eighth inning as Tennessee posted its 24th comeback win of the season to defeat East Carolina 6-3 to sweep the Kinston Super Regional and advance to 55th College World Series in Omaha, Neb. in 2001. In game of the 2001 Super Regional, Brandon Hopkins delivered a two-out, two-run single in the top of the ninth as the Tennessee Volunteers scored four runs to rally from a 10-9 deficit and post a 13-10 victory over the East Carolina Pirates in the first game of the Kinston Super Regional before a sellout crowd of 3,837.

    ECU and Tennesssee have met three times on the diamond with the Volunteers leading the all-time series with the Pirates, 2-1. Tennessee took both games of the 2001 Kinston Super Regional to advance to the College World Series. ECU's lone win in the series came in 1996 when the Pirates defeated the Volunteers, 5-4, in a tournament in Wilmington.

    UNC Wilmington earned the Colonial Athletic Association's automatic bid when it defeated Delaware twice to win the conference tournament last weekend. The Seahawks pounded out a season-high 21 hits to win their first-ever CAA Baseball Championship with a 15-3 demolition of Delaware. UNCW staved off elimination with an 8-7 win over the Blue Hens in the first game. Sophomore third baseman Matt Poulk was named Tournament MVP and four Seahawks were named to the All-Tournament team. UNCW makes its second straight NCAA appearance after participating in the 2003 Baton Rouge Regional. The Seahawks have been hot lately coming out of the loser's bracket to win the conference tournament. Chip Grawey leads a stable UNCW offense. Grawey sports a .379 batting clip with 28 RBI. Shortstop Aaron Smith hit. 341 with 15 doubles, 10 home runs and 50 RBI. On the mound, junior right-hander Ronald Hill is 12-3 with a 3.28 ERA while junior lefty Zach Kimball is 7-5 with a 3.28 ERA.

    ECU leads the all-time series with the Seahawks, 56-50, but UNCW has won four of the last five meetings. ECU won the last meeting, 3-0, in Wilmington in May. The Seahawks won the week before, 15-5, in Greenville.

    LHP Scott Andrews held UNC Wilmington scoreless through 6 2/3 innings in his first career start and Matt Bishop earned his third save of the season as No. 5 East Carolina shut out the Seahawks, 3-0, in front of 3,257 fans at Brooks Field back on May 11. Jamie Paige went 3-for-3 with two runs scored and Ryan Jones tied the single season school record with his 22nd double for the Pirates. Andrews scattered six hits in the 6 2/3 innings. ECU snapped UNCW's 9-game winning streak and recorded its sixth shutout of the season. UNCW's Lee McLean and Aaron Smith each hit two home runs as the Seahawks snapped No. 5 East Carolina's 19-game winning streak, 15-5, in the final game at Harrington Field in front of a season-high 3,057 fans. Paige led the Pirates going 2-for-3 at the plate. The Pirates gave up a season-high five home runs in the game.