AUSTIN, Texas - A solo home run in the bottom of the sixth inning by senior Marina Gusman-Brown lifted East Carolina past host Texas 1-0 and into Saturday afternoon’s Austin Regional Championship. Junior Toni Paisley threw her nation-leading 22nd shutout of the year and struck out 10 while allowing just two hits in the Pirates’ third-ever NCAA Tournament triumph.
East Carolina (44-17) earned its first victory this season over a ranked opponent in downing the 12th-ranked and No. 7 national seed Longhorns (43-15). The Pirates’ last victory over a ranked team was a 4-1 triumph over Virginia Tech April 29, 2008. ECU makes its first NCAA Regional Championship appearance Saturday at 2:00 p.m. against BYU, which knocked off the Pirates 1-0 Thursday afternoon.
Paisley (31-10) earned the victory in a pitcher’s duel with Texas’ Blaire Luna, the Big 12 Freshman-of-the-Year as well as Pitcher-of-the-Year. Luna is also a Top 10 finalist for the USA Softball Player-of-the-Year award. For Paisley, the 10 strikeouts marked the 36th time in her career fanning at least 10 batters. With the blanking, Paisley lowered her earned run average to 0.95 for the year. Luna (30-10) took the tough loss as she scattered three hits and four walks. She also struck out 11 batters.
The Pirates had the game’s first scoring opportunity in the bottom of the first inning. Senior Charina Sumner led off with a walk, but was thrown out at second on a fielder’s choice by classmate Christina Merrida. Merrida stole second base and senior Vanessa Moreno struck out. A two-out walk to Gusman-Brown put runners on first and second, but junior Sissy Jimenez flew out to deep center field to end the inning.
Texas recorded the first hit of the game in the top of the second on a two-out single by Loryn Johnson. A strikeout swinging by Tallie Thrasher closed the frame.
In the top of the third, the Longhorns’ Brittany Chalk laid down a bunt and reached on a throwing error by Paisley. A foul out on a bunt attempt and a pair of strikeouts left Chalk stranded on the bag.
ECU recorded its first hit of the game in the bottom of the fourth when senior Cristen Aona singled with two down. A groundout to the third baseman by sophomore Priscilla Velasquez followed to end the inning.
East Carolina had another chance to score in the bottom of the fifth but could not convert. Sumner doubled to the gap in left center with one out. A groundout up the middle by Merrida was stopped by second baseman Raygan Feight, who made the quick throw to first to retire Merrida. Sumner moved to third on the play, but another groundout to Feight left Sumner on the bag.
The Longhorns went quietly until Taylor Hoagland singled to shortstop with two outs in the top of the sixth. Hoagland stole second base, but a fly-out to shallow right field by Lexy Bennett proved to be the third out.
In the bottom of the sixth, Gusman-Brown led off with her home run off the scoreboard in center field for the game’s only run. It was her 13th long ball of the season, the fifth most in a single season in program history.
Paisley retired the Longhorns in order in the seventh on a foul-out and pair of fly-outs to Merrida in center to seal the victory.
Tomorrow at 2:00 p.m., the Pirates play for the Austin Regional Championship against BYU.