Originally created 06/12/04

Pirates coach won't back down



COLUMBIA - Bullies pick on people. People don't pick on bullies.

It seems that memo never found its way to Randy Mazey's desk.

The second-year East Carolina baseball coach, who played at Clemson in the late 1980s, has made numerous comments this week about South Carolina's fans and his team's chances to win this weekend's best-of-three Super Regional at Sarge Frye Field.

On Friday, he didn't let a few more flashbulbs and eyeballs catch his tongue at his team's news conference.

"I spent so many years here in an orange uniform, and heard so many things coming out of the stands in my direction," said Mazey, who called the Sarge crowds "unprofessional" during his playing days.

"It's a great opportunity to stir the pot a little bit and get some excitement going, maybe put a little twist on this Super Regional."

Mazey does anything but shy away from what it would mean to beat South Carolina at its home park to earn East Carolina's first trip to the College World Series.

And afterward, he wouldn't mind telling the fans in Columbia about it.

"When we do celebrate a trip to Omaha, it's going to have to be in front of the Gamecock faithful," Mazey said.

"I've got a tiger paw tattoo somewhere on my body, and I might show it to them when the game's over."

Mazey's philosophy behind the outspokenness? If the Gamecocks fans are too busy hating him, they won't waste their time berating the Pirates, thus taking the pressure off his relatively inexperienced squad.

"I'll be happy to take everything from the fans in my direction and keep it off the guys," Mazey said. "Whatever they can say to me, it isn't like I haven't heard it before here."

South Carolina coach Ray Tanner chuckled when asked about Mazey's verbosity.

Comparing the soft-spoken, Southern-fried Tanner and Mazey is like comparing Dennis Rodman and Al Gore.

"I'm probably a little bit boring. He's very energetic and very excited," said Tanner.

"I don't take it as insulting or an in-your-face kind of thing. They're in the final 16; it's working for them. We're just different."

Omaha has become the driving force Mazey and the Pirates. In fact, their consumption with the mid-sized Nebraska town borders on compulsive obsession.

Before this season started, Mazey had an oversized map of the United States placedin the team's locker room.

He put 50 push pins on the map from Greenville, N.C., to Omaha for each win his team would need to get to the College World Series. The Pirates earned 27 miles for each win. With 51 wins (to only 11 losses), Mazey said his team is "circling the airport."

Need more proof that the Pirates are nearly clinical? Last week, before the Kinston Regional, the team dined on Omaha steaks.

Still more?

The backs of their T-shirts say, "We're going." And they don't mean to Columbia.

Mazey calls Omaha a sort of "utopia," turning Rosenblatt Stadium into that cornfield from Field of Dreams.

"I told them that the first time you walk on the field, you can't even feel the grass," he said. "It's like walking on clouds.

"We're so close, I think they can taste it."

That's nothing like the taste he's put in the Gamecocks' fans mouths.

Reach Travis Haney at (706) 823-3219 or travis.haney@augustachronicle.com.