GREENVILLE, N.C. - The East Carolina softball team picked up a pair of victories on Friday at the Pirate Classic in two very different ways. In the first game against Towson, an offensive explosion of 14 hits and 9 runs led to a 9-2 win before a pitchers’ duel resulted in a 2-1 10-inning victory over Fordham in the nightcap. Senior Jessica Johnson had a history-making day for the Pirates, moving into a tie for third-place on the ECU career home runs list with 26 and a tie for sixth on the school’s career RBI chart with 120.
A trio of seniors also tied or set career-high marks on the afternoon, starting with Johnson’s three hits against Towson, which tied her career-best. Johnson finished the day going 4-8 with two runs scored, one double, one home run and one RBI. Sarah Bibee’s four runs batted in against Towson established a new career-high after her previous best was three at Southern Miss on May 6, 2007. In the same contest, Angel Barrella set a new career-best for runs scored in a game with three. Barrella had scored two runs in a game twice before.
In the opening game, the Towson Tigers wasted little time getting on the board, taking a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Kim Lempa singled, moved to second on a passed ball and scored on a bouncer up the middle by Sammi DiPompo. It marked the ninth time this season the opponent had scored first.
After mustering just two hits through the first three innings, East Carolina got its offense untracked in the top of the fourth with four hits and three runs. Marina Gusman-Brown got the frame started with a single to right center. Angel Barrella then bunted and the throw got away from the first baseman, moving Gusman-Brown to third and making Barrella safe at first. A passed ball followed and plated Gusman-Brown, tying the game at 1-1.
With Barrella on second after the passed ball, Cristen Aona singled to the shortstop, who then kicked the ball away, putting the runners on second and third base. A groundout by Kaui Tom allowed Barrella to score before a single by Sarah Bibee drove in Aona for a 3-1 Pirate lead. Prior to the contest, ECU had scored just two runs in the fourth inning all season long.
The Tigers made the score 3-2 in the bottom of the fourth as Mindy Bean doubled off the wall in left field and scored on Emily Gould’s single.
East Carolina quickly rebuilt their lead in the top of the fifth, tacking on two more runs and taking a 5-2 lead. Tom and Bibee each picked up their second RBIs of the contest in the frame. The Pirates added their final four runs in the sixth inning on Johnson’s solo home run to left field, her first of the season, an RBI fielder’s choice by Aona and two more runs driven home by Bibee.
In the circle for the first game, Caitlin Wainright picked up the win and moved to 2-2 on the season. Toni Paisley worked the final three innings in relief and recorded her Conference USA-leading second save.
While offense was the story in the first game, pitching dominated the second contest, which went 10 innings and ended up with ECU winning 2-1. Fordham’s Jen Mineau went the distance, striking out nine and allowing seven hits. Both of the Pirates’ runs in the contest were unearned.
For East Carolina, Paisley remained pitching for the start of the second game against and struck out the side in the first. She ran into a little bit of trouble in the third as a double by Megan Waldron and single by Meghan Shager put runners on first and third. A ground out and foul out to Aona, however, ended the inning.
Mineau held the Pirates in check through the first four innings, allowing just two hits. In the bottom of the fifth, ECU Bibee and Paisley both hit singles, but were left stranded on base. For Paisley, it was the first hit of her career and she also tallied the first stolen base of her career in the frame.
The Pirates had a chance to end the contest in the bottom of the seventh, as Aona led off with a hit to the shortstop and was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Tom. Bibee struck out, setting the stage for Paisley with two outs. On the second pitch of her at bat, Paisley sent a ball deep into center field that appeared to be the game-winning shot. But Melissa Andrews made a game-saving, over-the-shoulder catch to keep the game tied at 0-0 and send the contest into extra innings.
In the top of the eighth with the tiebreaker rules in place Fordham had a runner placed on second to start the frame. A ground out to the pitcher advanced her to third with one out. After a strikeout, a single by Shager, her second hit of the game, allowed the go-ahead run to score.
In ECU’s half of the eighth, Jillian Gallagher was used as a pinch runner and started on second base. She advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Charina Sumner. Christina Merrida followed by beating out an infield single to put runners on first and third. Johnson was intentionally walked to load the bases, bringing up Gusman-Brown. She did not disappoint with a single up the middle that looked like it would drive in two runs and put the game away. Gallagher scored, but Fordham’s Andrews came up with another game-saving play, throwing out Merrida at the plate and keeping the score tied at 1-1. Barrella finished the inning with a ground out to the shortstop.
Following her great defensive plays, Andrews led off to top of the ninth. Her groundball to the shortstop was fielded by Tom at shortstop, who caught Fordham runner Lindsey Kay Bright leaning a little too far off second base and Tom threw to Sumner, who tagged out Kay and left the Rams with a runner on first with one out. Paisley took over from there, inducing a strikeout and pop out to Tom to end the inning.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Pirates also missed out on the opportunity to win the game. Barrella started the frame on second and Aona immediately moved her to second with a bunt. But Mineau registered back-to-back strikeouts end the threat.
After Fordham went quietly in the top of the 10th, with the runner not moving past second base, the Pirates led off with Paisley batting and Bibee on second base. The Rams had committed just one error through the first nine frames, but the second came at a very inopportune time. Paisley put down the bunt and Jocelyn Dearborn sailed the throw wide of first base and Bibee raced around to score the winning run.