TULSA, Okla. – East Carolina opened Conference USA play at preseason-favorite Tulsa Saturday and dropped two games, falling to the Golden Hurricane 5-2 in 10 innings and 13-4 in five frames. In the opener, East Carolina went behind 1-0 and 2-1 before tying the game at 2-2 in the top of the sixth, only to drop a 5-2 decision in 10 innings on a walk-off three-run home run by Skylar Swanson. The Pirates (10-16, 0-2 C-USA) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second contest, but the Golden Hurricane (18-6, 4-1 C-USA) scored 12 runs in the bottom of the second inning to claim the win.
In the opener, freshman Sarah Christian (8-9) suffered the loss, scattering 10 hits and two walks while striking out a career-high five batters in the complete game. Lacey Middlebrooks (7-2) went the distance for the Golden Hurricane, limiting the Pirates to six hits and two runs with four free passes and four whiffs.
For the Pirates in game two, freshman Courtney Smith (2-7) suffered the setback, tossing four innings and allowing 13 runs, eight earned, on 11 hits and two walks. Aimee Creger (8-2) held ECU to five hits in four innings of work. She walked one and fanned seven. Kalynn Schrock threw the final frame for the Golden Hurricane, allowing one walk and striking out one.
During the first game, East Carolina had an opportunity to take the lead in the top of the first, but was held off the scoreboard. Sophomores Jill Jelnick and Kristi Oshiro drew back-to-back walks to open the contest. A fielder's choice and groundout left runners on second and third with two down before a 10-pitch at-bat by senior Suzanne Riggs ended with a lineout to first baseman Julie Kernen, keeping the Pirates from pushing across a run.
Tulsa broke through for the game's first run in the bottom of the third. After a groundout started the inning, Caitlin Everett and Jill Barrett hit consecutive singles to put runners on the corners. A groundout to Oshiro at second base by Samantha Cobb plated Everett for the one-run advantage. Christian ended the threat with a fly out to center field by Swanson.
The Pirates had the answer in the top of the fourth and tied the game at 1-1. Sophomore Alex Fieldhouse led off the frame with ECU's first hit, a single to center field. The liner broke a string of nine-straight batters retired by Middlebrooks. Senior Priscilla Velasquez followed with a groundout that moved Fieldhouse to second with one out. Fieldhouse was replaced by sophomore pinch runner Abby Wynne, who, after a Riggs fly out, scored on a single to right field by classmate Jordan Lewis. A groundout allowed Middlebrooks to escape without further damage.
ECU mounted another threat in the top of the fifth and again failed to convert. With one out, sophomore Jasmine Robbins singled through the left side and Jelnick picked up another walk to put runners on first and second. A groundout by Oshiro moved the pair up a base, but a Fieldhouse strikeout kept the game tied.
After the defensive hold, Tulsa regained the one-run edge in the bottom of the frame. Christian recorded two quick outs on two pitches with groundouts to Velasquez at first base. Everett ignited the offense again, this time with a double to the gap in right center. She stole third and scored on a Barrett single to left field. A groundout by Cobb closed the frame.
It took just one pitch in the top of the sixth for the Pirates to force another tie, this time at 2-2. Velasquez led off the frame with a solo home run to left center, her second long ball in as many games. The La Quinta, Calif., native entered the season with three homers in her career.
Both teams were retired in order in the seventh and Middlebrooks sent down the Pirates in order in the eighth. In the bottom of the eighth, Tulsa got a two-out single to center by Cobb but a Swanson groundout to sophomore shortstop Chelsea Kaluhiokalani-Glackin kept the game knotted.
In the top of the ninth, East Carolina had another opportunity, getting a runner to third, but Middlebrooks kept the Pirates from scoring. Riggs led off with a single to right center, moved to second on a Lewis sacrifice bunt and advanced to third on a groundout. Kaluhiokalani-Glackin sent a high chopper back up the middle, but Middlebrooks jumped up, made the stop and threw to first for the inning-ending out.
The Golden Hurricane mounted a two-out rally in the bottom of the ninth, but Christian avoided damage with her career-high fifth strikeout of the contest. After a pop out and groundout to Oshiro began the frame, pinch hitter Shelby Blanton beat out a roller between Oshiro and Velasquez for a single. Cassidy Bowen followed with ball directly off the end of her bat that spun in front of Christian for another infield base hit, putting runners on first and second. A wild pitch moved both runners up a base before Cierra Hughes struck out swinging to end the inning.
East Carolina had another chance to tally the game-winning run in the top of the 10th, but could not score. Robbins singled to right field to open the inning and Jelnick came back from an 0-2 count to draw her third walk of the contest. A sacrifice bunt by Oshiro moved both runners up a base, but a pop out and groundout left the pair stranded.
Following the defensive hold, Tulsa won the game in the bottom of the 10th. Everett was the spark again, leading off with a single. A Barrett sacrifice bunt moved her to second before an intentional walk to Cobb put runners on first and second with one out. Swanson sent the first pitch of her at-bat over the wall in center field for the three-run game-winning home run.
During game two, East Carolina converted on its first-inning scoring chance and took a 2-0 lead. Jelnick led off the contest with a single to left field and Oshiro walked. A sacrifice bunt by Fieldhouse put runners on second and third with one out. After a strikeout, Riggs delivered the pair with a double to left field. Creger ended the inning with another whiff.
After being retired in order in the bottom of the first, Tulsa erupted for 12 runs in the second to take a 12-2 lead. Swanson led off the inning with a solo home run to make it a 2-1 deficit. With the bases loaded and no outs, a two-run single to center by Bowen and an error by the Pirates on the play cleared the bases, sent Bowen to third and put the Golden Hurricane up 4-2. After a fielding error left runners on the corners, an Everett single gave TU a 5-2 advantage. Barrett bunted for a single to load the bases for Cobb, who grounded out to Kaluhiokalani-Glackin to score another run. A Smith wild pitch plated Everett and made it a 7-2 TU lead. Following a walk to Swanson, Middlebrooks singled and Barrett scored on the hit. Blanton flew out to center before a Jessica Stoelke single delivered another run for a 9-2 advantage. Bowen capped the scoring in the frame with a three-run home run to left field.
The Pirates used another Riggs hit in the top of the fourth to make it a 12-4 contest. Velasquez led off with a single to right center and Riggs followed with a two-run home run to left field. The long ball was Riggs' second in three contests. After the homer, Lewis was hit by a pitch and Robbins singled to put runners on first and second with no outs. Creger rebounded with two strikeouts and a groundout to end the inning and leave the two on base.
Tulsa added the game's final run in the bottom of the fourth for the 13-4 final score. Blanton was hit by a pitch to open the inning. She moved to second on a wild pitch, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a two-out single up the middle by Hughes.
Schrock came in for the final frame and allowed just a one-out walk to Fieldhouse before a fly out and caught stealing of sophomore pinch runner Rebecca Lee ended the game and sealed the Golden Hurricane victory.
East Carolina will try to avoid the sweep Sunday as the teams finish the series with a 1:00 p.m. ET clash.