GAINESVILLE, Fla. - In the first game of the Lipton Invitational, the East Carolina softball team fell behind 7-1 to Marshall before scoring six unanswered runs to force a 7-7 tie, only to watch the Thundering Herd walk away with an 8-7 victory in nine innings. Marcena Bertoldo drew a bases loaded walk with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to give Marshall the win.
Home runs and runners left on base were the differences in the game as the Thundering Herd smacked four long balls, providing the team with six of its eight runs. On the other hand, East Carolina (1-4) left 13 runners stranded as compared to three for Marshall (5-0).
Junior Toni Paisley (1-2) suffered the loss for the Pirates as she surrendered a run on no hits but four walks in three-and-two-thirds innings. Sophomore Faith Sutton made the start, giving up four long balls, seven runs and seven hits. Senior Marina Gusman-Brown made her first career appearance in the pitching circle as she came on in relief of Sutton. Gusman-Brown did not allow a run and gave up only one hit her one-and-a-third innings. She also struck out one.
Marshall’s Katie Murphree earned the victory to improve to 4-0 this season. She pitched three-and-two-thirds innings of two-hit relief, surrendering the game-tying run in the top of the seventh. Caitlyn Jackson got the start and lasted four-and-two-thirds innings, allowing six hits and five runs.
The Pirates took a 1-0 advantage with a two-out rally in the top of the second. Senior Cristen Aona and freshman Kai Clark were hit on consecutive pitches with two down. Sophomore Priscilla Velasquez then sent a single up the middle for her first career run batted in. It was also the second-straight season in which Velasquez recorded a hit in her first at-bat of the year.
In the bottom of the inning, Marshall’s home run power was on display as it took a 3-1 lead with a Jazmine Valle two-run long ball to right center and an Alianna Telles solo shot to straight-away center.
The Thundering Herd tacked on another run in the third with a solo home run by Melanie Stoehr to make the score 4-1.
In the bottom of the fourth, Marshall added three more runs to take a 7-1 lead. Valle drew a one-out walk and was replaced by pinch runner Ashley Gue, who stole second base. Samantha Spurlock drove Gue in with a single to center field to give the Herd a 5-1 lead. One out later, Bertoldo hit Marshall’s fourth home run of the game, this one a two-run shot, for the six-run margin.
The Pirates narrowed the gap in the top of the fifth, scoring four runs to make it a 7-5 deficit. Senior Kaui Tom led off with a double down the left-field line and moved to third on a groundout by senior Charina Sumner. A walk to classmate Christina Merrida put runners on the corners with one out. Senior Vanessa Moreno followed with a single to left field that drove in Tom. Another single, this one by Gusman-Brown, loaded the bases. A strikeout by freshman Cicely Lopez was the second out of the inning, but Aona was hit by a pitch to force in Merrida. Clark drove in the final two runs of the frame with a single to center that scored Moreno and Gusman-Brown.
Gusman-Brown pitched herself out of trouble in the bottom of the fifth as Stoehr led off with a double and moved to third on a groundout. Gusman-Brown induced another groundout and then recorded her first career strikeout to escape without any damage.
The Pirates picked up another run in the top of the sixth as Sumner and Merrida recorded back-to-back singles with one out. Marshall then made a pitching change to bring in Murphree. Her first pitch was a passed ball to advance the two runners up a base. A strikeout by Moreno brought up Gusman-Brown, who was intentionally walked to load the bases with two outs. On a full count, Lopez drew a walk to force in Sumner for a 7-6 score. Aona grounded out to second base to end the inning, leaving the bases full.
After retiring Marshall in the bottom of the sixth, East Carolina forced the 7-7 tie with two-outs in the top of the seventh. Clark led off being hit by a pitch and moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Velasquez, but Clark was tagged out trying to reach third base on a ground ball that Tom hit to the shortstop. Sumner followed by beating out an infield hit to put runners on first and second with two outs. Merrida sent a single into left field that was not picked up cleanly, allowing Tom to score from second base. The hit for Sumner moved her into a tie for 10th place on the ECU career list as she has recorded 176 in her three-plus years.
Marshall had a chance to end the game in the bottom of the frame when Bertoldo led off with a walk, but Jackson lined into a double play to Tom at shortstop to clear the bases and end the opportunity.
With the international tie breaker rules in place at the start of the eighth inning, both teams received a runner on second base with nobody out. Still, neither team could push a run across until Marshall in the ninth. Paisley struck out the first two batters in the inning before a walk to Spurlock and an intentional pass to Telles loaded the bases and brought up Bertoldo, who drew the game-winning, full-count walk.
The Pirates play Campbell 30 minutes after the conclusion of this game in the second contest of this weekend’s Lipton Invitational.