East Carolina's softball team (6-4) came out strong and defeated Liberty (2-4) by a 12-1 score in its first game of the Pirate Invitational, but fell to Fairfield (1-1) in the second contest by a 14-10 margin on Friday, Feb. 22, at ECU Softball Stadium. The Pirates had a 6-4 lead late in the second game, but it quickly was erased as Fairfield scored 10 runs in top of the seventh inning to come away with the victory.
Senior Kai Clark had a strong pair of games for the Pirates in going 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles. Juniors Jordan Lewis, Kristi Oshiro and Jill Jelnick all had three hits in the two games, while Lewis, Oshiro and junior Alex Fieldhouse all drove in four runs. In general, the ECU offense was strong with 21 hits in 55 at bats (.382 batting average); including 13 extra base knocks in the contests. After coming into the day with only three home runs on the season, the ECU bats were booming in hitting four long balls with Lewis, Oshiro, Jelnick and Fieldhouse all clearing the wall.
Sarah Christian (5-2) earned the decision in both games. She won the first game with four innings of one-run ball against the Flames, but then lost in the second game after allowing nine runs (two earned) in two relief innings against the Stags.
ECU continues play on the second day of the Pirate Invitational on Saturday, Feb. 23, with a 3 p.m. contest against Notre Dame at ECU Softball Stadium.
The Pirates began the scoring early with three runs in the first inning against Liberty. Jelnick walked, stole second and then went to third on Oshiro's bunt single. After a fly out to short centerfield, junior Abby Wynne laid down her second successful squeeze bunt of the season to allow Jelnick to scamper home with the first run. Wynne was also able to reach on the play on the attempted play at the plate. After a foul out for the second out, Lewis tripled to the gap in right-centerfield to clear the bases and give ECU a 3-0 advantage.
The Flames countered with their only run of the game in the second inning. Grace Nordan reached on an error to start the frame. She and Kelby Allen changed places on a fielder's choice. Another fielder's choice from Hanna Nichols eliminated Allen at second base and allowed Nichols to reach first. Meghan Robinson then hit a chopper straight up the middle that was fielded cleanly, but the attempted throw to eliminate the lead runner, Nichols, hit her and rolled into short centerfield. On the play, Nichols moved to third and then alertly came home when she noticed that home plate was uncovered for the only Liberty run of the game.
ECU added a run to the lead in the second on Jelnick's first career home run.
The Pirates made it three-straight scoring inning with another run in the third. Clark started the one-out rally with a double to the gap. She took third on a wild pitch. Lewis then walked and stole second. On the Lewis' steal, the ball was thrown away to allow Clark to score from third.
ECU kept the offense in high gear with two more runs in the fourth. Junior Chelsea Kaluhiokalani-Glackin doubled to lead-off the frame. Freshman Meredith Mitchell moved her to third with a sacrifice bunt. A Jelnick ground out to short followed to drive in Kaluhiokalani-Glackin from third. Oshiro then tripled to right-centerfield to plate Jelnick with the second run of the inning and sixth of the game.
The Pirates, aided by Oshiro's second career grand slam, finished off the scoring with five runs in the fifth inning. Lewis started the fifth with a single up the middle. Senior Cicely Lopez recorded her first hit of the season with a single to left field. Kaluhiokalani-Glackin followed with her second hit of the game to score Lewis. Both runners were able to move up the extra base on the attempted play at the plate. Mitchell then drew her first career walk to load the bases. After a fielder's choice ground kept the bases loaded and eliminated Lopez at home, Oshiro hooked a ball just inside the rightfield foul pole for her first home run of the season to clear the bases and give the Pirates a 12-1 run-shortened victory.
Christian earned the win for ECU with four innings pitched and three strikeouts. Freshman Mary Beth Smith came in to throw a scoreless fifth inning for the Pirates in the win. The loss was taken by Liberty's Chandler Ball. Ball allowed five runs (four earned) in 2.1 innings in the circle.
East Carolina scored first with two runs in the second inning against Fairfield. Clark laced a single to left to start the rally. She moved to second on the sacrifice bunt from Lewis and took third as Lewis reached on the dropped throw by the Stags at first. Lewis then stole second and moved to third as Clark scored on the throwing error from the Fairfield catcher. Lewis scored the final run of the inning on a wild pitch that skipped passed the catcher.
Fairfield took the lead with four unearned runs in the third inning. The inning began with Nikki Osofsky walking, Ruffolo reaching on a throwing error and Lauren Liseth walking to load the bases. Nicole Capra drove in the first run with a walk. Rae Ball followed with a two-out bases clearing double to plate Ruffolo, Lisseth and Capra.
ECU answered back in the bottom of the frame on a three-run home run from Fieldhouse. Jelnick and Oshiro both drew one-out walks in front of Fieldhouse to set the stage in the inning.
The Pirates added a run in the fifth inning on Clark's RBI double to score Oshiro, who began the frame being hit by a pitch, stealing second and then taking third on the throwing error from the Fairfield catcher.
The 6-4 ECU lead held until the seventh inning when the Stags, aided by eight hits and two untimely Pirate errors, put 10 runs on the board. Liseth and Taylor August both reached on one-out singles. A fielding error by the ECU shortstop loaded the bases. Lauren Filicia drove in the first run with a pinch hit infield single to third. Kimi Kurata followed with a single up the middle to score two more. Sam Frungillo made it three straight hit with her single to drive in the next run. Another error by ECU plated the next run. A bunt single by Tiffany Lawson again loaded the bases. Kristen Filicia delivered a single through the right side to plate the next tally. After an ECU pitching change and attempt to stop the momentum, Liseth hit a grand slam to clear the bases and finish the scoring for Fairfield.
The Pirates put up a four-spot in the seventh inning to draw closer. Clark drew a one-out walk and scored ahead of Lewis' first home run of the season. Junior Jasmine Robbins then singled through the left side. Lopez followed with another single to put two runners on base. Freshman Casey Alcorn made it four straight hits with her single to left to load the bases. Fellow freshmen Kelsi Briggs drove-in Robbins with her sacrifice fly out to right field. Jelnick then pushed a single up the middle to score Lopez and bring the tying run to the on-deck circle, but Fairfield relief pitcher Rae Ball stood strong and induced a foul out to the catcher to end the Pirates' comeback attempt.
Sophomore Courtney Smith started for ECU, and was in-line for the win until the seventh inning explosion from Fairfield, after throwing 4.1 innings and surrendering four unearned runs. Despite allowing 10 runs (eight earned), Fairfield's Rebecca Trott (1-0) won the contest for the Stags. She also allowed nine hits and four walks, but struck out eight in earning the team's first win of the season.
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