TEMPE, Ariz. (ECU Media Relations) – A new era of East Carolina softball got off to a successful start Friday and even into the early hours of Saturday morning as the Pirates took down Virginia and Seattle to open the Kajikawa Classic at the Tempe Sports Complex. ECU run-ruled the Cavaliers 9-1 in six innings before blanking the Redhawks 6-0 in the nightcap.
The contests marked the first for head coach Courtney Oliver who took charge of the program back in June.
Junior infielder Karlie Smith and junior outfielder Ciara Ervin each notched four hits during the two games to go along with three runs scored and a home run apiece. East Carolina hit a total of four home runs each by different players. After missing last season due to injury, junior catcher Alex Mycek returned strongly by recording four RBI and a home run.
While the offense was solid for the Pirates, the pitching was just as good. Junior Lydia Ritchie and sophomore Ashley Cruise combined for just one run allowed and 15 strikeouts. Ritchie tossed a complete game shutout in the second contest and struck out a career-high eight batters. Cruise fell just one strikeout short of her personal best of eight set last season against Marshall.
Allison Davis had three hits to lead the Virginia offense while Seattle was paced by Paige Bouska’s two base knocks. Redhawk relief pitcher Alyssa Reuble struck out six in 5.1 innings of work.
How it Happened (Game 1): Cruise worked a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the first before senior shortstop Casey Alcorn came through with a RBI infield single to put ECU on the board. Smith extended the Pirate lead to 2-0 with a leadoff home run heading into the third where Cruise kept Virginia from scratching across its first run. The home half of the inning got off to a nice start as Ervin beat out the Cavalier relay and ended up with an inside the park homerun. After a single by Alcorn and a UVA error, Mycek crushed a pitch over the left field wall to extend the East Carolina cushion to 6-0. Senior outfield Meredith Mitchell added a RBI single to leave the Pirates with a 7-0 advantage after three complete. The Cavaliers were able to poke across a run in the fourth to cut their deficit to six runs but Cruise escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the top of the fifth to prevent further damage. The wheels came off defensively for Virginia in the bottom of the sixth as it committed three errors and allowed ECU to plate the final two runs of the game.
How it Happened (Game 2): After a scoreless top of the first, East Carolina went to work offensively in the bottom of the frame. Ervin recorded a ground rule double to lead off and eventually scored on an illegal pitch and a Kacie Oshiro sacrifice fly. Alcorn then drew a walk and Smith singled to put two runners on for senior catcher Kelsi Briggs who sent a ball to right field that was misplayed and allowed the runners to score and make it 3-0. Junior infielder Ali Ramirez put the exclamation mark on the inning with a RBI double, allowing ECU to exit the first with a 4-0 advantage. Ritchie went to work hitting her spots and holding Seattle to just three hits over the next five innings. A Briggs homer and Ervin RBI single in the bottom of the sixth would provide the final margin.
Bits and Pieces: East Carolina opened the season with two wins for the second-straight year … ECU improved to 24-35 against Virginia and 2-0 versus Seattle … The Pirates have defeated the Cavaliers in six of the last nine meetings … Ritchie’s complete-game shutout was her second in her last three appearances dating back to last season … Freshman infielder Morgan Halo earned the first start of her career (first base) in the Virginia contest … Including the final regular season series of the 2015 campaign, East Carolina has run-ruled an opponent in three of its last six outings … After stealing just 24 bases total last season, the Pirates swiped three bags in Friday’s games.
Up Next: East Carolina will take on UC Riverside and No. 20 Arizona State Saturday at 7 and 9:30 p.m. respectively as the Pirates continue play at the Kajikawa Classic. Both of those games will take place at Farrington Stadium.