Humble Whitehead crowned regional MVP|ECU sophomore two hits shy of new record

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sports Editor

GREENVILLE — Despite playing five times in three days, and doing so — as always — at full-tilt, Trent Whitehead showed he still had some energy when it was all said and done.
The sophomore was one of the first players to bolt out of East Carolina’s dugout following the Pirates’ dramatic 10-9, 10th-inning win over South Carolina in Monday night’s championship game of the NCAA Greenville Regional. After Devin Harris drove in Kyle Roller with the game-winner, Whitehead and his teammates took part is a mass celebration at home plate before a boisterous, thunderous Clark-LeClair Stadium.
The Pirates (46-18) advanced to face the North Carolina Tar Heels (45-16), the No. 4 national seed, in the NCAA Super Regionals at Chapel Hill.
“I’m so glad right now,” Whitehead said. “I’m glad I get to spend some more time with the seniors. I really wasn’t ready to leave them. They’re such a great group of guys. They’re like brothers to me.”
Although the Pirates were three outs away from being eliminated, trailing the Gamecocks 9-6 entering the bottom of the ninth inning, Whitehead said the ECU dugout was still upbeat and confident. A three-run blast by Harris tied the game at 9-9 in the ninth, before Harris delivered his walk-off single in the 10th.
“Our team chemistry is so good that we just pull it together,” Whitehead said. “We’re always so supportive. We’ve been like that the whole year.
“There was not a doubt from anybody in that dugout that didn’t think we had a chance to pull this off.”
Whitehead, a former star at Washington High School, certainly helped the Pirates advance. The team’s leadoff batter and center fielder was named the regional Most Valuable Player.
He went 8-for-21 (.381) with a home run, double, five RBIs, five runs scored, three walks, one stolen base and 10 putouts.
“I’m honored,” said Whitehead, who is hitting .381 with seven homers and 47 RBIs on the year. “Honestly, I don’t think I’m the one that deserved it. There are so many guys that did such great things this weekend to help us win.
“I’m glad I won it, but I’m more glad that we advanced. That’s all I cared about.”
Whitehead got the Pirates off to a sizzling start in the tournament, hitting a leadoff home run in an 11-7 win over Binghamton in the first game of the regional. He added an RBI double in a gutsy at-bat during a 16-9 victory over Binghamton in an elimination game.
After fouling the ball off his foot and writhing on the ground in pain, Whitehead walked around and talked with trainers and coaches before returning to the batter’s box. On the very next pitch, Whitehead clobbered his RBI double.
“If you don’t know this guy, this guy is tough,” ECU coach Billy Godwin said. “He really is.”
Whitehead saw his 16-game hitting streak get snapped after going 0-for-3 in Monday’s championship game. The speedy table-setter, who drove in a run with a sac fly and scored another run, still has 103 hits on the year. That is the second highest mark in ECU single-season history, one shy of Darryl Lawhorn’s mark of 104 hits collected during the 2002 season.
While he’d like to etch his name in the record books, Whitehead said he’s more concerned with helping his team advance.
“Before the game we were talking about it,” said Whitehead, who holds the ECU single-season record with 271 at-bats. “In my first at-bat, I was thinking about it and thought, ‘I could tie this (record) right now,’ but I was more worried about trying to do things to put the team in a situation to win.”
Whitehead and his Pirates begin their best-of-three series at North Carolina on Saturday. The first pitch at Boshamer Stadium is set for noon. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
The two teams, who split their regular-season series this year (ECU won 4-0 in Greenville on April 22; UNC won 3-1 at Chapel Hill on April 7), meet again Sunday in a noon game that will be televised on ESPN.
If a third game is necessary, the Pirates and Tar Heels will play Monday at either 1 or 7 p.m. and that game will be on ESPN or ESPN2.
“Carolina is a good club,” Whitehead said. “We have to come out fired up and do whatever we have to do.”
Each Super Regional winner advances to the College World Series in Omaha.
At Boshamer Stadium
Saturday, June 6, Noon (ESPNU)
Sunday, June 7, Noon (ESPN)
Monday, June 8, 1 or 7 p.m. (if needed on ESPN or ESPN2)
(.381, 7 homers, 47 RBIs, 77 runs, 24 doubles, 10 stolen bases, 63 games, 61 games started)
103 SEASON HITS (second most in ECU single-season history); Darryl Lawhorn had 104 hits in 2002.
271 at-bats (most in ECU single-season history); broke the mark of 267, set by Jamie Paige in 2004.
77 runs (second most in ECU single-season history); Ryan Wood has the school record with 86, set this season.
24 doubles (third most in ECU single-season history); Ryan Jones had 26 doubles in 2004; Ryan Norwood had 34 doubles in 2004.