GREENVILLE, N.C. – The East Carolina softball team split two games for the second-straight Friday, falling to No. 21 Louisville 5-0 and downing UNCG 2-1. In the opener, a two-run triple by Kristin Austin and a combined shutout by Chelsea Leonard and Caralisa Connell lifted the Cardinals to the victory. In game two, senior Suzanne Riggs hit a two-run home run in the top of the sixth inning to push the Pirates past the Spartans in head coach Tracey Kee’s 1,000th contest as ECU’s head coach.
Against Louisville, freshman Courtney Smith (1-2) took the loss after throwing four innings and allowing four runs on eight hits and a walk. She struck out two, both in the third inning. Freshman Sarah Christian entered for the final three frames, surrendering three hits and one run while striking out one. Leonard started for the Cardinals and lasted three innings, limiting the Pirates to one hit and two walks while striking out three. Connell (2-0) picked up the win in relief, tossing four innings and issuing two walks and one hit to go along with five strikeouts.
During game two, Christian (3-0) pitched the best game of her young career, allowing only four hits and not issuing a walk. She struck out two and retired 18 of the final 22 batters she faced in her first complete game. With the victory, she becomes the first Pirate freshman to win her first three career starts since Britt Howell in 2008. UNCG’s Erica Navarette (0-3) was saddled with the loss as she scattered nine hits, hit one batter and walked three in seven innings of work.
The first contest of the day had Louisville get a runner on in both of the first two innings, but one was caught stealing and other was stranded on third base. An over-the-shoulder catch in center field by sophomore Jasmine Robbins ended the top of the second and kept the game scoreless.
East Carolina put two runners on with two outs in the bottom of the second as sophomore Alex Fieldhouse singled to left and Riggs drew a walk. A strikeout ended the threat.
Louisville broke through for a 3-0 lead in the top of the third. After a whiff started the frame, Hannah Kiyohara singled to center field and Jennifer Esteban dropped down a bunt for a base hit. Austin tripled to the gap in right center to drive in two and then scored on a single to left by Katie Keller. Smith retired the next hitter on a pop out, but a single by Jordan Trimble and walk to Kayla Soles filled the bases with two down. Smith bounced back to strike out Katelyn Mann looking with the bases loaded to close the inning.
In the top of the fourth, the Cardinals added another run to make it a 4-0 advantage. Whitney Arion opened the frame with a single through the left side, moved to second on a wild pitch, advanced to third on a groundout and came home on another groundout, this one by Esteban.
The Pirates had a runner on in the fourth and fifth innings, but a double play cleared the bases in the fourth and Riggs was left stranded on first after a strikeout and groundout in the fifth.
The Cardinals added their last run in the top of the sixth for the 5-0 final. Soles led off with a single and was replaced by pinch runner Kirsten Straley, who stole second base. Mann dropped a single into left center, but Straley had to hold on the bag to make sure the ball fell. A single to center by Arion plated Straley, but Arion was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a double. A groundout and fielder's choice ended the inning.
Connell avoided damage after an error by Mann at third allowed sophomore Rebecca Lee to reach with two outs in the bottom of the sixth as a groundout closed the inning. In the seventh, freshman Alexa Cannon drew a walk to lead off the bottom of the frame, but a pop out, fielder's choice and strikeout ended the contest.
In the second game against UNCG, the Pirates left a runner stranded in the first and second innings before leaving two in the third frame. ECU put together a two-out rally in the third as sophomore Jill Jelnick singled and Lee drew a walk to bring up Robbins. She singled to right field and Jelnick attempted to score from second, but was thrown out at the plate by Alex Emeterio to end the threat. While Jelnick did not score, she helped keep the Spartans off the board with two diving catching and one grab crashing into the wall in right field.
After allowing a two-out single to Emeterio in the bottom of the first inning, Christian retired eight-straight UNCG hitters before Emeterio broke the string and helped UNCG take a 1-0 lead. Emeterio reached on a fielding error by Robbins in center field, and, after a lineout to Oshiro, scored on a single to right field by Katelyn Bedwell. A pop out closed the inning.
East Carolina left two more runners stranded in the top of the fifth after putting together another two-out threat with Jelnick and Lee. Jelnick reached on an error and Lee beat out an infield roller to put runners on first and second. Robbins grounded into a fielder's choice to end the threat as Lee was forced out at second.
The Pirates finally broke through in the top of the sixth as Riggs' homer gave ECU a 2-1 advantage. Fieldhouse led off with a single, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by senior Priscilla Velasquez and came home on Riggs' long ball. After the home run, sophomore Jordan Lewis was hit by a pitch, but Navarette avoided further damage with a pop out and lineout.
Christian allowed a two-out single to Emeterio in the sixth, but retired Eileen Horsmon on a fly out to Jelnick in right. In the seventh, Dominique Madruga singled to right field with one down, but Heather Robb lined into a game-ending double play as first baseman Velasquez caught the ball and stepped on first to double off Madruga.
East Carolina continues play at the Pirate Clash on Saturday with a 3:00 p.m. contest against Fordham (1-1).
-- Junior Kai Clark threw out Louisville's Jennifer Esteban on an attempted steal of third base. It is the fifth runner who has been caught stealing this season. In all of 2011, Pirate catchers gunned down eight would-be base stealers.
-- Sophomore Alex Fieldhouse tallied a career-high seven assists against Louisville. Her previous best was four assists against Virginia on Feb. 10, 2012.
-- Freshmen Alexa Cannon and Sara Pacioni made their collegiate debuts against Louisville, each pinch hitting in the seventh inning.
-- Senior Suzanne Riggs' home run is her second in three games and she now leads the Pirates with a .545 batting average and 1.091 slugging percentage.
-- East Carolina has now won nine-straight meetings with UNCG.
-- The Pirates came back to defeat the Spartans after trailing through fifth innings. It is ECU's first win when behind after five frames since downing Marshall 4-3 on March 27, 2010.
-- East Carolina's 4-2 record is its best through six games since a matching mark in 2009.