Pirates gear up for regional play
By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
CONWAY, S.C. — Kyle Roller turned Charles Watson Stadium’s Vrooman Field into his own personal playground.
The East Carolina designated hitter/first baseman certainly found his groove, smashing several balls well beyond the fence during Thursday afternoon’s practice. Roller and the rest of the Pirates spent the practice getting acclimated to the playing conditions in preparation for today’s NCAA Conway Regional.
The No. 2 seed Pirates (40-19) play No. 3 seed Alabama (34-26) at 7 p.m. Top seed Coastal Carolina (47-12) takes on No. 4 seed Columbia (22-28) at 1 p.m.
Roller, who enters the tournament with 11 home runs, drew some “oohs” and “ahhs” with his blasts from a handful of bystanders.
Roller ripped a pair of home runs during the Conference USA Tournament, which helped land him on the all-tournament team.
The sophomore is hoping to continue that trend this weekend.
ECU coach Billy Godwin said during Thursday morning’s press conference that his team would spend its allotted practice time getting familiar with the surroundings and how the field plays.
Limited to just an hour-and-15 minutes for the practice session, the Pirates were on the go from the moment they stepped onto the field.
What does Godwin know about Alabama, a team the Pirates will meet for the first time in school history?
The Crimson Tide is hitting .309 with 78 home runs. Brandon May is hitting .377 with nine homers and 49 RBIs to pace the Tide.
Other top hitters for Alabama are Josh Rutledge (.375, 29 RBIs), Alex Avila (.339, 16 homers, 61 RBIs), Alex Kubal (.336, four homers, 20 RBIs) Kent Matthes (.307, 10 homers, 49 RBIs) and Matt Bentley (.256, 10 homers, 44 RBIs).
ECU starter Seth Maness (9-1, 2.87 ERA), who was named to the 2008 Louisville Slugger/Collegiate Baseball All-American Third Team, will look to keep the Tide bats at bay.
Junior right-hander Austin Hyatt (4-4, 4.64 ERA) will get the start for the Tide. The Pirates would like to get to Hyatt in a hurry.
That’s something that catcher Corey Kemp has seem to have done all season. The senior is hitting .349 with 16 homers and 67 RBIs. Kemp, a semi-finalist for a handful of postseason awards, would like to build off his regional performance from a year ago when he was named to the all-tournament team.
The winners of today’s games meet at 7 p.m. Saturday, with the losers meeting at 1 p.m.