With the East Carolina baseball team's exit from last week's Conference USA Tournament, the Pirates' season came to a disappointing close and also wrapped up the 2013-2014 sports year for the big three sports — joining football and men's basketball.
Now that it's finished, it's now time to take in a year that consisted of several noteworthy accomplishments for first-year Director of Athletics Jeff Compher to hang his hat on.
On the gridiron, the Pirates reached the 10-win plateau for just the second time in school history, with the other team being the historic 1991 team led by Jeff Blake, and beat both N.C. State and North Carolina for the first time in the same season.
A year removed from the best season in school history, the men's basketball team overcame the loss of eight players during the offseason and starting forward Marshall Guilmette, who suffered a season-ending knee injury five games into the season, to capture its second consecutive winning record in the regular season — a feat that hasn't been achieved since 1997.
Similar to the football team, the Diamond Bucs secured wins against N.C. State and UNC in 2014 and their first sweep of the Tar Heels in 20 years. Also, ECU took two out of three at No. 12 Rice for its first series win against the Owls … ever.
Although the memorable moments were plentiful over the last year, we narrowed our list to five that stood out from the rest.
5. Narrow loss at No. 6 Duke (Nov. 19)
Although it was just an early-season meeting at Cameron Indoor Stadium, ECU's 83-74 defeat in the NIT Season Tip-off was the closest the Pirates have come to knocking off the Blue Devils since 1974.
ECU climbed within a point of tying Duke twice during the game's home stretch and was a made layup by freshman Brandan Stith away from taking the lead. But the Pirates failed to break through and consequently, fell short.
|Senior shooting guard Akeem Richmond.|
Both of Duke's superstars, Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker, supplied outstanding performances — combining for 51 of the Blue Devils' points¬—to go along with point guard Quinn Cook's first career double-double (14 points, 10 assists) to put away the Pirates.
But that didn't stop legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski from applauding ECU's efforts.
"East Carolina was terrific because we were good. In fact, we were terrific…We could not have had a better opponent, a more classier opponent and a better game to build on than we did."
4. Richmond leads stunning rally in El Paso (March 12)
Time and time again throughout Akeem Richmond's two-year tenure at ECU, the six-foot senior from Sanford, N.C. has put on remarkable shooting displays from three-point range.
There's no better example of this than the Pirates' first-round matchup with UTSA in the Conference USA Tournament.
Trailing 46-28 at the Don Haskins Center, Richmond caught fire to lead an unprecedented 31-6 ECU run —during which he hit four consecutive 3's for his own 12-0 spurt — that ended with the Pirates leading 59-52.
Richmond finished with a C-USA record 11 three-pointers for 36 points, which made him the league's most prolific three-point shooter in a single season.
The Pirates held on to win 79-76 to keep their NCAA Tournament dreams alive, until they were extinguished by the hosting UTEP Miners the next night.
3. Hoffman fans 16 in 1-0 win (April 17)
ECU ace Jeff Hoffman toed the mound against Middle Tennessee with a slew of MLB scouts in attendance that included the presidents of the Chicago Cubs, Theo Epstein, and White Sox, Kenny Williams.
|Junior right-hander Jeff Hoffman struck out a career-high 16 batters against Middle Tennessee.|
Hoffman did not disappoint. He struck out a career-high 16 and allowing just three hits in eight innings pitched. Despite receiving little run support, he earned the win.
However, a two-out rope from ECU right fielder Ian Townsend was required in the top of the ninth inning to throw out Middle Tennessee's Trent Miller at the plate and preserve the Pirates' 1-0 win.
More than likely, it was Hoffman's last game in an ECU uniform. In the seventh inning, he felt some discomfort in his throwing arm. Although he stayed in the game, it was later determined he would need season-ending Tommy John surgery.
Hoffman was a projected top-five selection in the MLB Draft after the MTU game, but after undergoing surgery, many projections have him being taken between picks 10-15.
2. ECU wins Beef ‘O' Brady's Bowl (Dec. 23)
The Pirates were given an early Christmas present at Tropicana Field: their first bowl victory since 2007. However, ECU trailed Ohio in the fourth quarter after relinquishing a 14-point lead and needed to rally.
Senior Vintavious Cooper, the game's most valuable player, began the charge with a 31-yard touchdown to put the Pirates back in front and later delivered the fatal blow with a 22-yard scamper to the end zone to cap ECU's 21 unanswered points, securing a 37-20 win.
|Shane Carden and Vintavious Cooper hold the Beef ‘O' Brady's Bowl trophy.|
Sandwiched in between Cooper's scores was maybe the signature moment of the 2013 season.
On what Head Coach Ruffin McNeill called the "Cam" play, quarterback Shane Carden hit outside receiver Cam Worthy on a screen pass. Then, Worthy surprised everyone when he lofted a pass towards Carden in the end zone, who leapt up against two Ohio defenders to make his first career reception— a 14-yard touchdown.Cooper rushed for a career-high 198 yards and Carden set the school's single-season passing record with 273 yards in the Beef ‘O' Brady's Bowl.
1. Pirates end drought in Chapel Hill (Sep. 28)
The last time ECU had won in Kenan Stadium was in 1975. To put that in perspective, its current head coach Ruffin McNeill was a senior at Lumberton High School that year.
On September 28, 2013, the Pirates dominated the Tar Heels to earn a resounding 55-31 win that was 38 years in the making.
In the initial moments following the win, Carden led the ECU band in the corner of the end zone that was filled with Pirate fans after he completed 32 of his 47 passes for 376 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for three more scores.
The offense ran 98 plays for 601 yards against UNC, owning over 36 minutes of possession time. Cooper compiled 256 all-purpose yards, which included 196 rushing yards.
So why is this No. 1 over the bowl victory?
The UNC game is more significant considering the manner of which the Pirates won and how difficult beating the Tar Heels has proven to be.
Who knows? Thirty years from now, some fans might forget the name of the bowl game ECU won in 2013 or who the opponent was. I highly double that will happen any time soon with the Pirates' win in Chapel Hill.
It's a game that just a few thousand ECU fans were in the stands for, but several thousands more probably claim they were in Kenan Stadium that afternoon. And for this reason and many more, it is the top moment of the 2013-2014 ECU sports season.