The East Carolina softball program has enjoyed much success since its inception in 1978. On Wednesday, it was recognized for its achievements by making CSTV’s list of winningest programs in college softball history.
The list dates back to 1984, the first year that official team records were kept by the NCAA. In just 22 seasons, the Pirates have racked up 967 victories, good for eighth place on the prestigious ledger. UCLA, collegiate softball’s most storied program, leads all teams with 1,214.
ECU has recorded at least 40 wins not only in the past four seasons, but also in nine of head coach Tracey Kee’s 11 years with the program and 12 of the last 14. Currently, she sits just three wins away from reaching 500 for her career as she has compiled a 457-229-1 mark. Additionally, Kee became the third-fastest coach in Division I to reach the 200-victory plateau as she accomplished the feat in just four campaigns.
From 1984 to 1997, the program experienced just one losing season. The 2000 Pirate squad became just the 13th team in NCAA history to produce 60 or more wins in a season as it compiled a stellar 60-17 record. In 1999, East Carolina notched 50 wins, taking the Big South championship and earning its first berth to the NCAA Softball Championship where it participated in the Tucson regional, which included nationally-ranked Arizona and Maryland.
Kee has been the driving force in putting the Pirates on the map. A 1990 graduate of ECU, she served as ECU’s assistant from 1991-96 before she became head coach in 1997. In that first year, the Pirates made the transition from playing as an independent to competing in the Big South Conference. The season began on a high note and set the precedent for success her teams would have in the years that followed. The ’97 team won a then-school record 49 games as Kee was recognized as the Big South Coach-of-the-Year. Each of the three years that East Carolina competed in the Big South, Kee led the team to three regular season championships and one tournament title. She also coached two All-America selections in Isonette Polonius and Keisha Shepperson.
A move to Conference USA in 2002 allowed the program to continue to flourish as it entered a conference with perennial NCAA tournament teams DePaul, Southern Miss and South Florida. The Pirates shocked all prognosticators that season, qualifying for the conference tournament after finishing among the top six teams.
“This program’s winning traditions have been built by the individual student-athletes who wore the Pirate uniform from day one,” Kee stated. “The wins accumulated over the years are by far something to be proud of, but so too is the fact that this program continues to excel both on the field and off the field. I feel fortunate to have been a part of 843 of those wins as a player and a coach. East Carolina University & the athletic department have allowed me the opportunity to continue this program’s growth, and that’s a challenge I have accepted without hesitation.”
East Carolina returns seven starters and 15 letterwinners from a squad that finished 40-20 and fell just two runs short of reaching the NCAA tournament. The Pirates open the 2008 campaign on Feb. 8 at the Carolina Classic at Anderson Stadium in Chapel Hill.