ATHENS, Ga. - After starting the 2011 season with a 1-0 victory over Lipscomb Friday morning, the East Carolina softball team finished opening day with an 8-0 loss to Illinois State. The Redbirds' Megan Warner limited ECU to one hit and struck out 15 in the complete-game victory.
On offense, Illinois State was led by Kara Nelson, who went 4-4 and scored four runs, as well as Lauren Kellar and Abby Olson, who went a combined 5-8 and drove in four runs.
Faith Sutton (0-1) started in the circle for the Pirates and surrendered 13 hits and eight runs, six earned, while striking out six. Warner (1-0) allowed just a single to junior Suzanne Riggs to lead off the bottom of the fifth, a pair of walks and a hit by pitch. She became the first pitcher to fan 15 Pirates since Angela Tincher of Virginia Tech on April 29, 2008.
The Redbirds wasted little time, taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Nelson doubled to the gap in left center to open the contest and Kellar bunted for a base hit, putting runners on the corners. Olson struck out swinging for the first out. With Elizabeth Kay batting, Kellar took off for second. Sophomore catcher Kai Clark made the throw to second but Chelsea Kaluhiokalani-Glackin could not handle it and the ball rolled toward center field. Nelson took off for home and slid in safely before Clark could put the tag down.
ECU had a chance to answer in the bottom of the first, getting a leadoff walk from freshman Rebecca Lee. The next three Pirates struck out, leaving Lee, who had stolen second base, stranded.
The Redbirds tacked on two more runs in the top of the third for a 3-0 edge. Nichelle Harrison led off with a pop up behind the infield. Kaluhiokalani-Glackin stretched out, but could not make the play as the ball ticked off the end of her glove and rolled into left field. Harrison ended up on second with a double. Nelson stepped up next and doubled off the glove of Jasmine Robbins in center field, putting runners on second and third with no out. A passed ball scored Harrison and moved Nelson to third. Harrison became the first opponent to score on a passed ball since Kelsey Stander of Indiana on Feb. 22, 2009. Kellar followed with a single up the middle to plate Nelson.
Illinois State scored again in the top of the fifth to take a 4-0 lead. Nelson started the threat with a one-out single. After Kellar fouled out to Riggs in left field, Olson tripled over the head of freshman Jordan Lewis in right field to drive in Nelson.
East Carolina recorded its only hit of the game in the bottom of the fifth when Riggs singled up the middle on the first pitch of the half inning.
In the top of the sixth Illinois State added another run for a 5-0 advantage. With one out, Hamilton tripled to right center and Laura Canopy plated her with a single up the middle.
The Pirates attempted to answer back in the bottom half of the frame but could not push a run across. Freshman Jill Jelnick led off with a walk but Lee struck out, freshman pinch hitter Abby Wynne grounded out and Clark closed the frame with another groundout.
The top of the seventh had ISU get back-to-back triples from Nelson and Kellar to go ahead 6-0. Olson followed with a double to the gap in right center to plate Kellar. With two down and Olson on third, a fielding error by Jelnick allowed Olson to score for the Redbirds' eighth and final run.
Warner worked around hitting Riggs with a pitch in the bottom of the seventh to end the contest.
East Carolina returns to action at the Red & Black Showcase on Saturday with a 9:00 a.m. game against Iowa. The Pirates complete the day against host No. 3 Georgia at approximately 1:00 p.m.