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East Carolina beats, and beats up, Golden Eagles

[5/21/04]HATTIESBURG Ryan Norwood single-handedly beat up Southern Miss. He even sidelined a pair of Golden Eagles on the way.

Norwood had three hits and two RBIs to lead No. 7 East Carolina to a 9-0 win over No. 17 Southern Miss at Pete Taylor Park on Thursday. With the victory, the Pirates wrapped up the first Conference USA title in school history.

“I’m so proud of our guys, but this wasn’t our goal when the season started,” ECU coach Randy Mazey said. “We don’t really talk about the conference championship. We talk about getting to Omaha, and this is a good way to do it by winning the league.”

Greg Bunn (8-0) pitched eight scoreless innings for ECU (46-8, 24-4 C-USA), allowing five hits and striking out five in dealing Southern Miss its first shutout loss in two years.

“They’re a good hitting team,” Bunn said. “When I put it over the middle of the plate or anywhere close to the plate, they hit it tonight. But I was able to hit my spots, corner to corner.”

Things unraveled for the Golden Eagles (39-14, 20-8) in the third inning.

USM starter Patrick Ezell (5-2) got the first two outs of the inning before Trevor Lawhorn reached base on an error. Lawhorn’s twin brother, Darryl, then followed with a single to set the stage for a pair of bizarre plays.

Norwood hit a sharp shot right back at Ezell that caromed off his leg and allowed Trevor Lawhorn to score for a 1-0 lead.

Ezell rolled on the ground in pain for several minutes while Southern Miss trainers attended to him. He got up and threw several practice pitches in an attempt to continue, but USM coach Corky Palmer replaced Ezell with Daniel Best.

On the second pitch after play resumed, Drew Constanzo doubled to bring in Darryl Lawhorn. Norwood, meanwhile, rounded third trying to score. The relay throw arrived to catcher Kevin Coker at the same time as the runner, and Norwood, a 6-foot, 2-inch, 230-pounder, plowed into Coker and scored to put the Pirates up 3-0.

“He was a one-man wrecking crew in that inning,” Mazey said.

Coker was injured on the play and had to be replaced by Eddie Burger.

“He just jammed into my finger,” said Coker, a former Warren Central standout. “I don’t know what it is. He just jarred into it when it was straight and wide open. I didn’t have the ball yet, so he had every right to run down the baseline.

“They said he kind of took it easy on me, as a matter of fact.”

Ezell’s status after the game was unknown. Coker has either a torn ligament or a broken bone on the middle finger of his throwing hand and will find out his diagnosis today. Coker said the injury is similar to when he broke a finger on his left hand during his senior year at Warren Central.

“It’s kind of weird because every time (Ezell) pitches, regardless of how well I’m hitting, I’ve still caught him,” Coker said. “… He went down and then I went down right behind him.”

ECU battered Southern Miss’ bullpen the rest of the way. The Pirates added two runs in the fourth inning, two in the fifth, one in the sixth and the final run for an exclamation point in the ninth. ECU finished with 16 hits, and six of the nine starters had at least two hits.