06/01/04 — College baseball -- ECU makes regional, faces tough foes

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College baseball -- ECU makes regional, faces tough foes

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on June 1, 2004 1:55 PM

GREENVILLE -- Grim determination.

Confident gait.

Gunfighter's eyes.

It doesn't take a DNA sample to confirm that the current East Carolina baseball team is a clone of its creator -- second-year coach Randy Mazey. Mazey's desire to succeed and reach the pinnacle of his sport -- Omaha -- is evident every day in practice and in every contest the Pirates play.

The players know it, too.

"We're going!" is the moniker ECU has lived by since last season's loss to South Carolina in the Atlanta Regional.

And they're headed to the big dance for a program-best sixth consecutive time after earning an at-large bid to the 64-team NCAA Division I tournament field announced Monday afternoon. The Pirates (48-11) seized the No. 1 seed and will play host to a four-team regional in Kinston, which begins Friday at historic Grainger Stadium.

East Carolina opposes America East champion and fourth-seeded Stony Brook at 7 p.m. Second-seeded Tennessee, which defeated the Pirates in a best-of-three super regional at Kinston in 2001, faces Colonial Athletic champion UNC Wilmington at 3 p.m.

The double-elimination regional continues Saturday with three games. The regional title game is slated for 1 p.m. Sunday. A second contest, if necessary, follows 45 minutes later.

"When they flashed the Pirate head on the screen, it gave everybody goose bumps," Mazey said. "The players are the ones who have put themselves into a position to do this. They're the ones who have given their heart and soul to this university, and this program.

"Now they're being rewarded."

East Carolina is one of four Conference USA teams participating in the postseason. TCU eliminated the Pirates en route to the tournament title and the automatic bid. Southern Miss (44-17) and Tulane (38-19) each received an at-large bid.

The Kinston regional champion moves on to super regional play against the survivor of the Columbia regional. Top-seeded South Carolina, bidding for its third straight trip to the College World Series, faces in-state member The Citadel. Second-seeded North Carolina and third-seeded Coastal Carolina square off in the day's first game.

ECU is 6-6 overall in the postseason since 2001.

Texas, which won has five CWS titles including 2002, is the tournament's No. 1 seed after posting a nation-best 50 victories this season.

"There are so many good teams out there that there wasn't any one that was a slam dunk," Division I baseball committee chairman Charlie Carr said. "Texas is a great team, had a great run, had an unbelievable record and deserved to be No. 1. That's not to say there weren't other teams that also could have been No. 1."

The other national seeds, in order, are: South Carolina (45-15), Miami (44-11), Georgia Tech (41-19), Stanford (44-12), Rice (43-12), Arizona State (40-16) and Arkansas (39-21). Those schools would face each other only if they advanced to the College World Series.

"There is very little difference between No. 1 and No. 8," Carr said.

Rice begins defense of its 2003 title at home against Texas Southern, which grabbed the Southwestern Conference's automatic bid and is 18-33 overall.

Notes: Miami, in its last year as an independent, is making its 32nd straight appearance to extend its NCAA record. The Hurricanes will begin play in the ACC next season. ... Thirty-eight of the 64 teams were in the 2003 field. Eight teams make the field for the first time in their history -- Birmingham-So., Col. of Charleston, Jacksonville St., St. Bonaventure, Stony Brook, Texas Southern, UC Irvine and Youngstown St. ... Twenty-six teams won at least 40 Division I games through May 30, and all but one are in the field. George Washington, which went 41-18 against Division I foes this year, did not make the tournament.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

2004 NCAA Division I

Baseball Championships

Kinston Regional

(at historic Grainger Stadium)

Friday's games

Game 2 -- No. 2 Tennessee (37-22) vs. No. 3 UNC Wilmington (38-21), 3 p.m.

Game 1 -- No. 1 East Carolina (48-11) vs. No. 4 Stony Brook (29-25), 7 p.m.

Saturday's games

Game 3 -- Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 11 a.m.

Game 4 -- Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 3 p.m.

Game 5 -- Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 loser, 7 p.m.

Sunday's games

Game 6 -- Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 1 p.m.

Game 7 -- if necessary