GREENVILLE, N.C. – A two-out double by freshman Jordan Lewis in the top of the fifth inning drove in the game-winning run and junior Priscilla Velasquez added a career-high tying three runs batted in to lead East Carolina to a 5-1 victory over Memphis in the first round of the Conference USA Championship. The win marked the Pirates' (37-20) fourth straight in league tournament play.
A pair of Pirate freshmen, Jasmine Robbins and Jill Jelnick, also stayed hot and helped the offense. Each scored two runs with Jelnick tallying two hits and Robbins walking twice and being hit by a pitch once. Jelnick leads East Carolina with 10 runs scored and 15 hits since the start of the UAB series April 16.
Senior Toni Paisley (28-11) earned the victory for the Pirates, tossing all seven innings and allowing only three hits. She fanned 10 and walked three to pick up the 114th win of her career. Janelle Valle pitched the first inning and to two batters in the second for the Tigers (35-12) and gave up one run on one hit and a walk. She also fanned one. Carly Hummel (20-6) took the loss after tossing the next five frames, surrendering a pair of runs on three hits and a free pass. Lauren Carley threw the last frame, giving up two unearned runs on two hits.
ECU jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the second. The Pirates registered the game's first base runner when Robbins drew a leadoff walk. She advanced to second on a wild pitch and to third when Lewis singled to right field. The Tigers made a pitching change, bringing in Hummel. Velasquez hit a grounder to Alyssa Palmieri at second base, who had the ball bounce off her glove and over to the shortstop Heather Mott. Mott picked up the bouncing ball and retired Velasquez at first, but Robbins came home on the play. A groundout and pop out allowed Hummel to escape without further damage.
Memphis tried to rally in the bottom of the frame as Jessica Phillips led off with a walk. She was replaced by pinch runner Shanna Brown. After a pair of strikeouts, Brown stole second base, but was left stranded with a foul out.
The Pirates had a chance to tack on more runs in the top of the third but failed to convert. Freshman Kristi Oshiro reached on a one-out error by Phillips at first base and junior Suzanne Riggs followed with a walk to put runners on first and second. A strikeout and fly out ended the threat.
In the bottom of the third, the Tigers mounted a two-out rally but were held off the board. Mott drew a walk and Lelani Bernardino followed with a single to right field. Paisley struck out Maddie McKinley swinging to end the frame.
Memphis tied the game at 1-1 with a leadoff home run in the bottom of the fourth by Phillips. It was just the fourth home run allowed this season by Paisley to a C-USA opponent.
East Carolina answered immediately in the top of the fifth with two runs for a 3-1 advantage. Jelnick led off with a single to left field and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Oshiro. After a pop out, Robbins was hit by a pitch. Lewis followed with her second hit of the game, driving a double to the gap in left center that plated Jelnick and Robbins. Hummel got out of trouble with a fly out to a hard-charging Kamri Chester in center field.
Memphis had its leadoff batter on in the bottom of the inning when Palmieri was hit by a pitch. She moved to second on a passed ball, but was left stranded as Paisley struck out one and induced a pair of groundouts.
The Pirates added two more runs in the top of the seventh for a 5-1 edge. Jelnick led off the seventh with a single through the right side. Oshrio dropped down a bunt and the throw from third base was wide and allowed Oshiro to be safe at first. Riggs' sacrifice bunt moved the pair up a base and Robbins drew a walk to load the bases. Lewis struck out looking, but Velasquez singled to center field and drove in two. She was thrown out at second trying to advance to end the inning.
Memphis tried to rally in the bottom of the seventh. Kailey Kassner drew a one-out walk and Palmieri singled to center field to put runners on first and second. A fly out and strikeout sealed the victory for the Pirates.
ECU takes on the winner of tonight's Houston versus Southern Miss game Friday at 4:30 p.m.