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USM's C-USA title dreams shattered

By By Shawn Wansley / EMG staff writer
May 21, 2004
HATTIESBURG The Conference USA regular season baseball championship changed hands here Thursday night.
The East Carolina Pirates got eight innings of shutout pitching from Greg Bunn and pounded out 16 hits to whip the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles 9-0 here before 2,864 fans at Pete Taylor Park.
The win clinched the title for East Carolina. The Eagles were the defending regular season C-USA champs.
The Pirates, ranked No. 4 by Collegiate Baseball, improve to 46-8 overall and 24-4 in C-USA. The Golden Eagles, ranked No. 17 by Baseball America, fall to 39-14 and 20-8.
Still, the Eagles have plenty to play for. They are battling Tulane and Houston for second place in the league and are trying to earn an NCAA
Tournament bid.
Bunn, 8-0, gave up just five hits, walked three and fanned six.
Norwood was involved in back-to-back bizarre plays, which knocked two Golden Eagle players out of the game.
In the top of the third inning, Norwood faced Eagle starter Patrick Ezell with two on and two out. Behind 0-2 on the count, Norwood laced a line drive off Ezell's left knee, knocking the Petal freshman to the ground.
Norwood reached first on the play, which drove in the game's first run.
The blow knocked Ezell out of the game.
Reliever Daniel Best then entered the game. ECU designated hitter Drew Costanzo then drilled a double to right-center field, which scored Darryl Lawhorn, who had singled, and Norwood. But Norwood collided with Eagle catcher Kevin Coker. After the dust had settled, Coker had to leave the game with a broken middle finger on his right hand.
Norwood expressed sympathy for both Ezell and Coker.
Leading 3-0, ECU added two more in the fourth when Billy Richardson doubled and scored on Jamie Paige's double. Trevor Lawhorn's singled plated Paige.
The Pirates, who entered the game leading C-USA in team batting average (.357) and runs scored (273), added two more in the fifth. Norwood doubled to left and scored on Mark Minicozzi's single. John Poppert drove home Minicozzi with a sacrifice fly.
In the sixth, Paige, second in the league in batting with a .422 average, led off with a bunt single. He later scored on Norwood's single to center.
The Pirates ended the scoring in the ninth. Minicozzi, pinch-hitter Jake Smith and Richardson had consecutive singles to load the bases off Dane Reiter, the Eagles' fourth pitcher of the night. Reiter then balked Minicozzi home.
Paige, Jones, Costanzo, Minicozzi and Richardson had two hits each for East Carolina. Ricky Brooks pitched the ninth in relief of Bunn. The Pirate defense turned four doubles plays on the night.
Matt Shepherd doubled and singled to lead the Eagles. Brad Willcut added a double, while Jarrett Hoffpauir, Jason Lowery and Beau Griffin each singled.
Ezell, 5-2, took the loss. Best, Nick Valluzzo and Reiter finished up in relief.
The teams play again here tonight at 6:30 and conclude the series with a 1 p.m. game Saturday.