GREENVILLE, N.C. - East Carolina opened its Conference USA season splitting a doubleheader with Memphis Saturday afternoon. The Pirates took game one 4-1 but fell in the second 2-1. ECU sophomore Kai Clark drove in two runs in the opener and freshman Kristi Oshiro had the game-winning RBI with a third-inning double that plated Clark. During the second contest, Memphis' Lauren Carley limited the Pirates to five hits before Janelle Valle came in for the final three outs to earn the save. East Carolina scored once in the seventh and had the tying run on second base, but could not push it across.
Senior Toni Paisley (14-3) went the distance for ECU in the opener, allowing one run, two hits and a pair of walks. Paisley fanned 11 during seven innings, recording her 43 career game striking out 10 or more batters. Memphis' Carly Hummel (8-2) threw the first four innings, allowing four runs on four hits and two walks. The four runs were the most Hummel had allowed all season. She also fanned four in the contest. Valle came in for the last two innings and struck out two.
Junior Faith Sutton (5-4) took the hard-luck loss in the second contest as she surrendered just three hits, did not walk a batter and tied her season high with eight strikeouts. Carley (2-1) fanned three and issued three walks in her six innings. Valle had one base on balls and struck out one to pick up her first save of the season.
In the opener, Paisley struck out the first four batters and five of the initial six. Memphis' Alyssa Palmieri broke the string in the top of the third, leading off with a walk. A sacrifice bunt by Keanah Prestridge moved Palmieri to second, but a strikeout and groundout left her stranded.
East Carolina answered in the bottom of the third and took a 2-0 lead. Clark started the rally, reaching second on a throwing error by Hummel with one out. Clark hit a hard shot up the middle that Hummel made a nice stop on, but her throw to first went wide. After a strikeout, Oshiro doubled to the gap in left center and drove in Clark. Fellow rookie Rebecca Lee kept the inning alive with a triple off the bottom of the wall in right center that plated Oshiro for a 2-0 edge. A groundout to third ended the threat.
Memphis' Heather Mott led off with a single to left field in the top of the fourth. The Tigers could not capitalize, however, as a foul out and double play ended the threat. It was the Pirates' second double play of the year and second in as many games.
In the bottom of the inning, East Carolina added another pair of runs to make it a 4-0 advantage. Senior Sissy Jimenez led off with a single that bounced off Hummel's glove and advanced to second on a wild pitch. A walk to freshman Jordan Lewis put runners on first and second before a sacrifice bunt by classmate Alex Fieldhouse moved both up a base. A 12-pitch at-bat by freshman Mahrisch Medina resulted in a foul out to Prestridge behind home plate, but Clark came through with two outs, doubling to the wall in left to score Jimenez and Lewis. A fly out to left ended the threat. All four of ECU's runs during the game were scored with two outs. Entering the contest, the Pirates were scoring 46.5 percent of their runs this season with two down.
Paisley and Valle sent down all six batters they faced in order during the fifth and sixth innings.
In the seventh, Mott again reached base leading off the frame as she drew a walk. Paisley struck out a pair, but Ashleigh King doubled to left field to drive in Mott and make it a 4-1 deficit. It was the first earned run surrendered by the Pirates against a Conference USA team in 68 2/3 innings, a streak that extended to the bottom of the fifth at Houston on April 25, 2010. An infield pop out sealed the victory for ECU.
In the second contest, Oshiro got things started for the Pirates, leading off the bottom of the first with a walk. She advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Lee and went to third on a groundout, but was left there after a strikeout.
Neither team registered another base runner until there were two outs in the bottom of the third. Oshiro walked again but was caught stealing to end the inning.
Memphis got its first hit and run of the game in the top of the fourth to take a 1-0 lead. With one out, Mott doubled to the gap in right center for the Tigers' first base runner. After a sacrifice bunt moved Mott to third, she came home on a single up the middle by Jessica Phillips. A groundout to Jimenez at first closed the threat.
In the bottom of the inning, the Pirates had an opportunity of their own but did not cash in. Jimenez singled to left center with one down and Lewis doubled to left putting runners on second and third. Junior Suzanne Riggs followed with a walk to load the bases with one out. Clark then hit a line drive to Carley, who made the catch, threw to third and doubled off Jimenez, closing the inning.
The Tigers had a chance to add a run in the top of the sixth but were kept off the board. Pinch hitter Ijiah Hargrove reached on a fielding error by Jimenez as she dropped the throw at first from third baseman Fieldhouse. Another double play got the Pirates out of trouble as Lelani Bernardino lined out to Oshiro, who threw back to first in time to retire Hargrove.
Memphis added its insurance run in the top of the seventh for a 2-0 advantage. Maddie McKinley singled to right, stole second base, went to third on a groundout by Phillips and scored on a fielder's choice. King grounded one to Oshiro, who came home with the throw, but McKinley slid in safely. A foul out to Riggs in left and a lineout to center ended the Tiger half inning.
The Pirates did not go quietly in the seventh as they scored once but could not tie the contest. Riggs led off with a single to left center and freshman pinch hitter Abby Wynne followed with a single up the middle, putting runners on the corners with no outs. Wynne took off for second on the first pitch to Fieldhouse, but was caught stealing. Fieldhouse ended up walking, leaving runners on first and third with one out. Freshman Jasmine Robbins entered to pinch run for Fieldhouse and junior Priscilla Velasquez came in to pinch hit. Velasquez grounded out to McKinley at third, but Riggs came home and Robbins advanced to second on the play. Sophomore pinch hitter Cicely Lopez ended the contest with a strikeout swinging.
The teams decide the three-game series Sunday with a 12:00 p.m. contest.