GREENVILLE, N.C. – In the East Carolina softball team’s first home midweek games of the season, the Pirates defeated in-state rival UNC Wilmington in both games of Tuesday’s doubleheader. ECU (30-14) used a single from senior Nicole Jordan and a two-run double from classmate Cristen Aona to down the Seahawks 3-0 in the opener. A four-run fourth inning which featured home runs from seniors Vanessa Moreno and Marina Gusman-Brown propelled the hosts to a 7-1 triumph in the second contest.
The pair of wins gave the Pirates 30 this season, marking the seventh straight season they have reached 30 victories. ECU also now owns a 75-13 advantage in the all-time series against UNC Wilmington (8-33) and has won the past 11 meetings. This season, East Carolina has a perfect 9-0 mark against in-state opponents as it has outscored Campbell, N.C. Central, UNC Greensboro, N.C. State and the Seahawks 62-7.
Conference USA Pitcher-of-the-Week Toni Paisley (21-8) continued her hot streak, recording her fifth consecutive shutout in the opener as she allowed just one hit. She walked one and struck out seven. Paisley has won 16 of her past 17 decisions and has surrendered seven runs in her past 114.1 innings. Amanda Davenport (2-9) suffered the loss for the Seahawks, despite scattering only six hits and walking three.
Sophomore Faith Sutton (9-6) tossed a two-hit, seven inning complete game in the second contest. She struck out a career-high 10 batters, including all three in the seventh. Amanda Aditays (2-10) went the first four innings and gave up five runs on five hits. She struck out four but also issued five walks. Samme Lisowsky threw the final two innings for the Seahawks and allowed two runs on one hit.
In game one, the Pirates loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the first but could not push across a run as a fielder’s choice ended the threat.
East Carolina’s Aona led off the bottom of the second inning reaching on an error by the third baseman. Sophomore Priscilla Velasquez was then hit by a pitch before classmate Suzanne Riggs put down a sacrifice bunt that moved Aona to third and Velasquez to second base. A pair of groundouts, however, closed the inning.
The Seahawks received their first base runner of the game in the top of the third when Jennifer Ladd drew a two-out walk. She was left stranded after a lineout to left by Ashley Shingleton.
With two outs in the bottom of the inning, ECU took a 1-0 lead. Senior Kaui Tom dropped a one-out single into left field, stole second base and came home on a single into center from Jordan.
The Pirates scored their final two runs in the bottom of the fifth for a 3-0 lead. A one-out double from junior Sissy Jimenez extended her career-long hitting streak to seven games. Tom then picked up her second single of the game to put runners on first and third with one out. Tom stole second before a pop-out. The two swipes in the game tied her career high, set April 21, 2007, at UTEP. Aona came through with a two-out double to right center that drove in Jimenez and Tom. A groundout closed the inning.
UNC Wilmington picked up its only hit of the contest in the top of the sixth when Brianna Lofton sent a slow roller toward third base and Velasquez, who fielded the ball cleanly but could not retire Lofton at first base.
Paisley sealed the victory by retiring UNCW in order in the seventh inning.
In the second contest, East Carolina took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second. Tom began the inning with a walk and was sacrificed to second by Moreno. Aona drew a free pass and Velasquez was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out. Freshman Kai Clark followed with a single to left that drove in Tom for the one-run advantage. A strikeout and fly out then ended the threat.
The Seahawks knotted the game at 1-1 in the top of the fourth. Laura Sykes led off with a single to right field before Morgan Walters was hit by a pitch. Michelle Harrison reached on a fielder’s choice, which left runners on first and third with one out. Katie Houmard then converted an 11-pitch at-bat into a sacrifice fly, which drove in Sykes to tie the game.
ECU answered immediately as Moreno homered to left field to open the bottom of the fourth. The Pirates went on to score three more runs in the inning to put the game out of reach. For Moreno, the long ball was the 15th of her career, placing her in sole possession of eighth on the program’s all-time list. With two outs, Clark and senior Christina Merrida hit back-to-back singles before Gusman-Brown hit her team-leading 10th home run of the season to clear the bases for a 5-1 lead.
In the top of the fifth, Aditays sent a ball to right field with two outs that looked to be a single, but Moreno came up with a strong throw to retire Aditays at first on the play.
East Carolina tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the sixth for the final 7-1 score. Merrida reached on a fielding error by the shortstop before Gusman-Brown singled to center field. Merrida went to third on the hit and Gusman-Brown advanced to second on the throw. Sumner followed with a sacrifice fly before Gusman-Brown crossed home on a wild pitch.
Sutton struck out the side in the seventh to preserve the ECU victory.
East Carolina returns to Conference USA action this weekend with a three-game series at Houston (23-21, 8-9 C-USA). The teams play a doubleheader Saturday starting at 2:00 p.m. and complete the series with a 1:00 p.m. Sunday contest.