Pirates earn top seed for regional tournament|South Carolina, George Mason, Binghamton in field

Published 10:27 pm Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sports Editor

GREENVILLE — When the East Carolina baseball team sat down for lunch prior to Monday’s NCAA Selection Show, the Pirates already knew they were in and where they’d be playing. Now, the Pirates know who will be joining them in the NCAA Greenville Regional.
The No. 17 Pirates (42-17) earned the top seed for the tournament. They’ll be joined by the second-seeded South Carolina Gamecocks (38-21), third-seeded George Mason Patriots (42-12) and fourth-seeded Binghamton Bears (29-20) in the tournament that begins Friday at Clark-LeClair Stadium.
“I’m excited that we’re hosting the first regional in Greenville on campus at Clark-LeClair Stadium,” fourth-year ECU coach Billy Godwin said. “It’s certainly exciting for us.”
This is the first time Clark-LeClair Stadium will be the site of a regional tournament. However, ECU has played host to regional tournaments on two other occasions — in 2001 at Fleming Stadium in Wilson and in 2004 at Grainger Stadium in Kinston.
“It’s nice to be able to play here in front of our great fans,” senior first baseman Brandon Henderson said. “I’m sure Friday night will be rocking.”
The Pirates begin regional play Friday at 7 p.m. against Binghamton. It will be the first meeting between the two teams.
South Carolina and George Mason kick off the tournament with Friday’s 3 p.m. game.
Sophomore pitcher Seth Maness is excited he’ll be able to pitch in front of the home crowd.
“At the beginning of the year, that’s what we talked about,” Maness said. “We wanted to win the conference, and we did that, and we wanted to host (a regional). It’s just icing on the cake, really.”
Sophomore centerfielder Trent Whitehead, a former standout with the Washington Pam Pack, said playing at home certainly benefits the Pirates.
“It’s a huge advantage,” Whitehead said. “Having the fans on our side is great. It also gets you a little more excited to play when you know you have 3,000 or 4,000 fans cheering for you.”
The four-team regional is a double-elimination tournament. The winner advances to the Super Regionals, which is a best-of-three series. Each Super Regional winner advances to Omaha, site of the College World Series.
Senior second baseman Ryan Wood said getting to host a regional is something he and the rest of the seniors strived for since day one.
“We’ve wanted this since we came in,” Wood said. “It’s great that it finally happened.”
This marks ECU’s 24th overall appearance in NCAA postseason play. The Pirates have qualified for the regionals in each of the last three years, and 10 times over the last 11 years.
ECU played in the Chapel Hill (N.C.) Regional in 2007 and the Conway (S.C.) Regional in 2008.
The other 15 regional sites, including host institutions, are: Atlanta, Ga. (Georgia Tech); Austin, Texas (Texas); Baton Rouge, La. (LSU); Chapel Hill, N.C. (North Carolina); Clemson, S.C. (Clemson); Fort Worth, Texas (TCU); Fullerton, Calif. (Cal State Fullerton); Gainesville, Fla. (Florida); Houston, Texas (Rice); Irvine, Calif. (UC-Irvine); Louisville, Ky. (Louisville); Norman, Okla. (Oklahoma); Oxford, Miss. (Ole Miss); Tallahassee, Fla. (Florida State) and Tempe, Ariz. (Arizona State).
By virtue of being awarded a regional, all 16 host institutions have also been selected to the 64-team field. Cal State Fullerton, Clemson, East Carolina, Florida, Georgia Tech, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma and TCU have made the field as at-large selections.
NCAA Greenville Regional
Clark-LeClair Stadium
Friday’s Games
Game 1: (3) George Mason vs. (2) South Carolina (3 p.m.)
Game 2: (4) Binghamton vs. (1) East Carolina (7 p.m.)
Saturday’s Games
Game 3: 2 p.m.
Game 4: 6 p.m.
Sunday’s Games
Game 5: 2 p.m.
Game 6: 6 p.m.
Monday’s Game
Game 7: If Necessary (6 p.m.)