ORLANDO, Fla. - The East Carolina softball team picked up a pair of 2-0 victories against UCF Friday afternoon. The first game's win was in seven innings while the second contest took eight. Entering the doubleheader, the Pirates (19-12, 4-1 C-USA) were in second place in Conference USA while UCF (22-15, 7-3 C-USA) was in first.
Junior Toni Paisley picked up both wins to improve to 14-7 as she pitched a complete game in the opener and went the final three-and-a-third innings in the second. The Knights have not scored a run against ECU in the past five games as the Pirates have won 2-0 twice, 3-0 twice and 5-0 once.
The Conference USA Co-Pitchers-of-the-Week matched up in game one as Paisley and UCF's Ashleigh Cole (14-8) took the circle. Paisley surrendered just three hits, two walks and struck out seven in the 29th shutout of her career. Cole was nearly as impressive, giving up a pair of hits and two runs while striking out five. She also walked five batters and hit three others.
Pirate sophomore Faith Sutton and the Knight's Kristina DeMello (4-5) started the second contest. Sutton went four-and-two-thirds innings, allowing two hits and three walks while striking out five in the no decision. Paisley came in and gave up three hits and a walk to earn her ninth-straight victory. Duello went all eight innings, giving up six hits and an earned run. She also struck out six.
In the opener, the Pirates had a chance to get on the board in the top of the first but could not convert. Senior Marina Gusman-Brown was hit by a pitch with Cole's initial offering of the game. Gusman-Brown stole second base before classmate Christina Merrida drew a walk, putting runners on first and second with no outs. Senior Charina Sumner flew out to left center and freshman Kai Clark grounded into a double play, ending the threat.
In the top of the second, ECU took a 1-0 lead. Sophomore Priscilla Velasquez drew a walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by senior Kaui Tom. A strikeout followed, but junior Sissy Jimenez came through with two outs. She dropped a single over the head of the first baseman. Second baseman Natalie Land stopped the ball in shallow right field, but it was too late to get either Jimenez at first or Velasquez at home. It was the 19th run the Pirates scored with two outs in their past eight games. A strikeout allowed Cole to escape without further damage.
East Carolina threatened again in the top of the fourth as Clark was hit by a pitch, moved to second on a Velasquez sacrifice bunt and to third on a groundout to second base by Tom. A walk to senior Vanessa Moreno put runners on the corners with two down for Jimenez, who sent a grounder toward the right side that Arielle Palafox at first base fielded and beat Jimenez to the bag.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Knights broke up Paisley's no-hit bid as Tiffany Lane hit a one-out double to left field. Lane advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Marissa Menendez, but was left stranded as Cole fouled out to Clark behind home plate.
The Pirates added another run in the top of the sixth to make it a 2-0 lead as Tom hit a solo home run over the wall in left center. It was Tom's third home run in her past four games.
UCF tried to rally in the bottom of the sixth, but could not push across a run. Vanessa Perez led off with a walk. Morgan Bullard popped out to Paisley on a bunt attempt, but Abby McClain followed with a single to center field, putting runners on first and second with one out. Natalie Land hit into a fielder's choice, putting her at first and Perez on third. Land then stole second and the Pirates chose to intentionally walk Hillary Barrow, loading the bases with two outs. Palafox struck out looking to end the threat.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Knights got a leadoff double from Lane, but a pop-out on a bunt attempt and a pair of foul outs ended the game.
The second contest started much like the first with Gusman-Brown being hit by a pitch. Merrida lined out to left, but Sumner followed with a soft single into left field that fell just in front of a diving Bullard. With runners on first and second and one out, DeMello picked up two strikeouts to escape.
DeMello got out of trouble again in the top of the second as the bases were loaded with two outs. She recovered to strike out Merrida to end the threat.
The Knights got another double from Lane to lead off the bottom of the second but a pop-out on a bunt attempt and two strikeouts closed the frame.
Neither team mounted another scoring threat until the top of the fifth when Merrida reached on a throwing error by the first baseman and went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Sumner. A foul-out and groundout left Merrida on second and kept the game scoreless.
The Knights used an infield single by Perez, a walk to McClain and Land being hit by a pitch to load the bases with two outs in the bottom of the fifth. The Pirates then brought Paisley in for Sutton. On the first pitch Paisley threw, Barrow lined out to Aona at third.
In the top of the seventh, Gusman-Brown hit a one-out single to left field and Merrida walked. A foul-out and strikeout looking allowed DeMello to get out of trouble.
McClain doubled with two down in the bottom of the seventh but was left stranded after a pop-out to Aona at third base.
The Pirates broke the scoreless tie the top of the eighth, taking a 2-0 lead. Velasquez was hit by a pitch to begin the frame. Tom put down a bunt and Palafox tried to force out Velasquez at second base. The throw, however, went into center field, putting runners on first and second with no outs. Suzanne Riggs entered to run for Velasquez. Junior pinch hitter Nicole Jordan put down a sacrifice bunt that advanced Riggs to third and Tom to second. Moreno delivered a single through the left side that plated Riggs and moved Tom to third. Aona followed with a single up the middle that scored Tom and made it a 2-0 lead. Gusman-Brown and Merrida flew out to right field to close the inning.
UCF did not go easily in the bottom of the eighth. Barrow walked and Palafox singled to start the frame. Paisley got Lane to foul out to Aona at third base before recording back-to-back strikeouts to end the contest.
The Pirates, winners of 11 of the past 12 games, go for the series sweep tomorrow at noon.