HOUSTON, Texas – The East Carolina softball team pounded out 12 hits and recorded its ninth-straight shutout in defeating Southern Miss 8-0 in the opening round of the Conference USA Tournament. The Pirates (40-16) pushed across six runs with two outs in the bottom of the third and were led on offense by senior Vanessa Moreno’s 3-3, two-runs-scored performance. Senior Kaui Tom drove in three runs while sophomore Priscilla Velasquez picked up two RBI.
The victory gave ECU its second win against Southern Miss in C-USA Tournament history, the most the Pirates have recorded against any opponent. The triumph also allowed the Pirates to reach the 40-win plateau for the sixth time in the past seven seasons.
Junior Toni Paisley (28-9) picked up the victory as she limited the Golden Eagles (25-28) to just three hits, a pair of singles and a double. Paisley fanned eight and did not walk a batter. The eight strikeouts raised her season total to 328, just 10 shy of Keli Harrell’s single-season record. It was also Paisley’s sixth-straight shutout and 14th time this season she earned a win by blanking a Conference USA foe.
Courtney Ramos (9-11) suffered the loss for Southern Miss as she surrendered six runs on seven hits in two-and-two-thirds innings. Gabby Luciani pitched one-third of an inning and Beth Dietrich threw the final frame for the Golden Eagles. Dietrich gave up four hits and two runs.
East Carolina received two-out hits in the first and second innings, but both runners were left stranded. Moreno singled in the first and senior Cristen Aona doubled in the second.
In the bottom of the third, the Pirates scored six runs, all with two outs. Freshman Kai Clark led off with a single over the first-base bag. Two outs later, Moreno picked up her second hit of the contest with a single through the left side. Senior Marina Gusman-Brown drew a walk to fill the bases. A wild pitch by Ramos brought in Clark for the first run. Tom then delivered a single to right field that plated Moreno and Gusman-Brown. Junior Sissy Jimenez followed with an infield hit before Aona singled to center field, driving in Tom for a 4-0 lead. Velasquez brought in Jimenez and Aona for the final two runs of the frame with a double off the top of the wall in right center.
Southern Miss had a scoring opportunity in the top of the fourth but could not convert. Britney Dinelt was hit by a pitch to start the inning. After a fielder’s choice and fly-out, Alexis Hurley singled up the middle, putting runners on first and second with two outs. A passed ball by Clark advanced both runners a base. Paisley escaped the jam by striking out Logan James.
The Pirates added two more runs in the bottom of the fourth for the 8-0 final score. Senior Christina Merrida led off with a single to right center. Moreno followed with her third hit of the game, a double to the gap in left center. After a Gusman-Brown pop-out, Tom drove in Merrida with a single. A single up the middle by Jimenez plated Moreno for the eighth run. Aona lined into a double play to end the threat.
In the top of the fifth, Lauren Castellvi singled over the head of Jimenez at first base with one out. After a pop-out, Leslie LeJune doubled to left center, advancing Castellvi to third. Paisley recovered to strike out Dinelt and end the contest.
East Carolina plays in the semifinals tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. ET against the winner of tonight’s Houston-UAB contest.