LYNCHBURG, Va. – East Carolina fell victim to a pair of air-tight losses Saturday at the Liberty Softball Invitational, dropping a 2-1 eight-inning decision to Longwood before seeing the host Flames score two in the seventh to down the Pirates 7-6 in the nightcap.
After day two of the event, ECU stands at 9-5 overall while the Lancers are 3-10 and Liberty improves to 13-5.
Of the Pirates’ five losses this season, four have occurred by just one run. East Carolina also fell just short in an attempt to hand the Flames just their second non-conference home loss to an unranked team in the last 38 games. Liberty is 37-1 against such foes since 2018.
Game One: Longwood 2, East Carolina 1 (8 Innings)
A trio of errors proved costly in the opening game of the day while Longwood also out-hit East Carolina by an 8-5 margin. Redshirt senior infielder Rachel McCollum paced the offensive efforts with three hits and an RBI. Mason Basdikis also tallied three base knocks with a double and RBI.
Junior RHP Erin Poepping (3-2) was tagged with the loss, tossing two innings and walking two batters. Sydney Backstrom (2-4) went the distance, fanning eight batters and walking three in eight innings of work. She allowed one run on five hits.
With one out in the top of the first, junior infielder Ashleigh Inae worked a four-pitch walk and McCollum split the gap in left center that plated Inae to put ECU ahead, 1-0.
The contest was uneventful for much of the middle portion, but the Lancers struck for the tying run in the bottom of the fifth. Leigha Fox singled through the left side to kick off the frame and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Basdikis then did her job, dropping a 1-0 offering into right field that afforded enough time for Fox to scoot home. Longwood threatened for more, eventually getting two more runners into scoring position, but second-year freshman RHP Logyn Estes went up top for the strikeout to keep things on level terms.
The Lancers put together a golden chance to win the game in the bottom of the seventh. Nia Green and Basdikis singled consecutively, sitting on the corners, before Basdikis advanced to second without a throw. Poepping worked out of the jam, however, inducing a groundout, a fielder’s choice out at the plate and a fly ball to center to terminate the threat.
Inae and McCollum singled in the top of the eighth, standing at first and third with one away, but the Pirates came up empty following a pop up and strikeout.
Longwood put ECU away in the bottom of the eighth, using a fielding error and two walks to load the bases before a sacrifice fly plated the winning run.
Game Two: (RV) Liberty 7, East Carolina 6
East Carolina and Liberty combined for 24 hits and four home runs in the nightcap. Garner, McCollum and Estes each recorded two hits apiece while Estes produced a pair of RBI. Madison Via went 4-for-4 with two RBI for the homestanding Flames.
Junior RHP Erin Poepping (3-3) lost her second decision of the day, entering the game in the sixth inning and surrendering two runs on four hits with two walks and no strikeouts in just 1.1 frames pitched. Emily Kirby (3-1) picked up the win in relief, allowing just one run on three hits with seven strikeouts in 3.2 innings of work.
The Pirate offense got off to a nice start in the top of the first. Narron, Garner and McCollum all drew walks with one out before Estes shot a single up the middle to score two. The Flames responded right back in the home half. Autumn Bishop doubled on the first pitch she saw before Amber Bishop-Riley hit a home run to tie the score. A double play helped East Carolina escape further damage.
Garner and McCollum put the Pirates back in front with consecutive home runs in the top of the third, but Liberty recouped a run in the bottom of the inning via an RBI single by Caroline Hudson. A trio of singles allowed ECU to move back ahead by two in the top of the fourth when Inae deposited a run-scoring base knock into right field. The Flames kept chipping away, eventually knotting the score with single runs in the fifth and sixth innings.
The Pirates continued the see-saw battle in the top of the seventh. Garner singled down the right field line with one out and McCollum drew a walk. With two outs, Ledvina roped a 1-2 pitch into right center that saw Garner cross home and put the lead back in ECU’s dugout.
East Carolina could not hold on for the big victory in the bottom of the seventh. Karlie Keeney led things off with her first career home run to tie the proceedings at six. Hudson and Emily Sweat then drew walks before Savannah Channell singled on the infield to load the bases. With one out, Via put a ball in play and the throw home for the force out was late as Hudson slid in for the win.
East Carolina closes out the weekend Sunday at 10 a.m. in a de facto rubber game versus Longwood. The Pirates knocked off the Lancers 9-2 on Friday.