GREENVILLE, N.C. – The East Carolina softball team opened the 2012 season Friday splitting its two games by falling to Virginia 3-1 and topping Canisius 12-4 in five innings. In the opener, Virginia's Melanie Mitchell struck out 13 batters and Alex Skinkis tallied two hits, a run scored and another driven in to lead the offense. During the nightcap, freshman pitcher Sarah Christian picked up the victory in her debut and sophomores Alex Fieldhouse and Kristi Oshiro led the offense, combining for five runs batted in, four hits and three runs scored.
Against Virginia, freshman pitcher Courtney Smith (0-1) was saddled with the setback in her first East Carolina appearance after allowing all three runs. Despite the loss, Smith surrendered just four hits and a pair of hit batters. She did not issue a walk and struck out two while tossing only 60 pitches, 40 for strikes. Mitchell (1-0) earned the win, scattering four hits and not issuing a free pass. Of the first 15 batters she faced, she struck out 10.
Game two had Christian (1-0) earn the victory, going four-and-a-third innings and surrendering all four runs on four hits and six walks. She also struck out six. Smith came in for the final two-thirds of an inning and retired both batters she faced. Canisius' Jen Consaul (0-1) took the loss, throwing four-and-a-third innings and allowing 12 runs, 10 earned, on 12 hits, three walks and one hit batter. Amanda Baun pitched a third of an inning for the Golden Griffins, retiring the only batter she faced.
In the opener, neither team managed a base runner until Skinkis tripled to right field with one out in the bottom of the second inning. Marcy Bowdren followed with a ground ball up the middle that Smith got a glove on and knocked down. Oshiro at second base scooped up the ball and threw to first for the out, but Skinkis scored on the play to give Virginia a 1-0 lead. A strikeout by Kristen Hawkins ended the frame.
The Cavaliers tacked on another run in the bottom of the third for a 2-0 advantage. Megan Harris opened the inning with a single through the left side of the infield and advanced to second on a groundout by Heidi Velk. A single through the right side by Giannina Cipolloni drove in Harris. Cipolloni tried to take second on the throw home, but was tossed out for the second out of the frame. Taylor Williams reached on a fielding error by sophomore shortstop Chelsea Kaluhiokalani-Glackin, but Williams was caught stealing by junior catcher Kai Clark to close the inning.
In the bottom of the fourth, Virginia made it a 3-0 advantage on an RBI single to left field by Skinkis that drove in Erica Cipolloni, who opened the inning being hit by a pitch.
The Pirates broke through in the top of the sixth with their first run and hit of the game to make it a 3-1 deficit. Sophomore Jasmine Robbins led off with a double to the gap in right center and scored on a double to the same place by junior Cicely Lopez. After a strikeout, Oshiro punched a single through the left side to put runners on the corners with one out. Sophomore Jill Jelnick sent a pop fly into shallow center field, but Erica Cipolloni made a diving catch for the second out. Another pop out to Erica Cipolloni ended the scoring threat.
Mitchell retired the first two Pirates in the top of the seventh before sophomore Rebecca Lee dropped a single into left center. Mitchell bounced back to retire Robbins on a strikeout to seal the victory.
In the second game, the ECU offense got started much sooner, jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Oshiro led off with a single up the middle, stole second and advanced to third on a passed ball. Following a groundout, Fieldhouse plated Oshiro with a groundout to shortstop. Another groundout closed the threat.
The Pirates broke the game open in the bottom of the second with four runs on four hits and one Golden Griffin error. Lopez walked, Lee singled and sophomore Jordan Lewis singled to load the bases with no outs.
A fielder's choice by senior Suzanne Riggs and another by Kaluhiokalani-Glackin brought in one run and left runners on the corners with two down. After Kaluhiokalani-Glackin stole second, the Canisius catcher, Sonia Aguilar, threw to third to try and pick off Lewis. The toss went wide and sailed into left field, allowing Lewis to score and moving Kaluhiokalani-Glackin to third. With the 3-0 lead, Oshiro came up and beat out an infield single toward second base that drove in Kaluhiokalani-Glackin.
The final run of the inning scored when Jelnick sent a shallow fly into left field. The ball dropped and bounced away from the left fielder, allowing Oshiro to come all the way around from first and score. A lineout to the first baseman ended the frame and kept the ECU edge at 5-0.
The bottom of the fourth had the Pirates tack on a trio of runs with two outs to make it an 8-0 advantage. After a groundout started the frame, Riggs drew a walk and Kaluhiokalani-Glackin followed with a single to left field. A groundout followed, but Jelnick picked up the second free pass of the inning to load the bases. Fieldhouse delivered a single up the middle that drove in two before Robbins tallied a single to right that plated Jelnick for the final run of the frame.
Canisius put together a rally in the top of the fifth and scored its only runs of the contest. Katie Medina started the inning with a single to center field. A walk to Michelle DelPrince then put runners on first and second with no outs. Christian bounced back to strike out pinch hitter Erica Afanador, but a single just in front of home plate by Lauryn Chris loaded the bases.
Three-straight bases-loaded walks to Lauren Falzone, Lizzy Gatto
and Valorie Nappo forced in three runs for the Golden Griffins. Smith came in for Christian and induced a fielder's choice by Katie Lancellotti, forcing out Falzone at home and providing the second out of the frame. Smith then uncorked a wild pitch to force in Gatto for the final run of the frame as Robin Kennery grounded out to first to end the threat.
East Carolina immediately answered in the bottom of the inning, scoring four times to make it 12-4 and end the game due to the eight-run rule. Lee started the frame with a single to left center and stole second base. Lewis then beat out a slow roller to the second baseman to put runners on the corners with no outs. On the first pitch to Riggs, Lewis broke for second. Aguilar threw to second and Lee took off for home. Lewis was safe at second and Lee slid in safely at the plate, kicking the ball away from home on the throw back from second. Lewis advanced to third as the Golden Griffins chased down the ball. A Riggs groundout scored Lewis to make it a 10-4 contest. Kaluhiokalani-Glackin followed with an infield single and steal of second base. Oshiro was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with one down. Jelnick grounded out to the shortstop to plate Kaluhiokalani-Glackin, who had stolen third base. With Oshiro standing on second base, Fieldhouse drove in her career-high fourth run of the game with a single to center field, ending the contest.
The Pirates are back in action Saturday with two games, beginning with Canisius at 2:00 p.m. and following Drexel at approximately 4:00 p.m.
-- Sarah Christian became the first East Carolina freshman pitcher to record a win in her initial career appearance since Caitlin Wainright tallied the victory over Middle Tennessee on Feb. 7, 2009.
-- Christian is also the first Pirate rookie hurler to win her initial career start since Suzanne Riggs and the Pirates downed North Florida on March 12, 2008.
-- Junior Cicely Lopez started her first career games at first base. She tallied nine putouts in the first game and four in the second.
-- Sophomore Rebecca Lee started in left field in the opener, her first ever start in the outfield.
-- Sophomore Chelsea Kaluhiokalani-Glackin stole three bases against Canisius, the most by a Pirate player since Cristen Aona swiped three versus Southern Miss on May 1, 2010.
-- Kaluhiokalani-Glackin tallied a career-high three runs scored in the tilt against the Golden Griffins and matched her personal best with two hits.
- The 12 runs were the most by East Carolina since scoring 12 at Hampton on April 7, 2010.