ORLANDO, Fla. – East Carolina headed into its series at UCF with a season-high five-game winning streak, but dropped both games of Saturday’s doubleheader, falling 8-2 and 2-0. In the opener, ECU took a 1-0 lead, but UCF scored eight of the game’s final nine runs to record an 8-2 victory over the Pirates (15-19, 3-5 C-USA). A two-run single to right field by Vanessa Perez gave the Knights (25-10, 5-3 C-USA) the lead in the bottom of the third inning and five unearned runs in the sixth provided the insurance. The second contest had two-out singles by Tawny Swan and Perez deliver the game’s only runs.
During the opener in the circle, freshman Sarah Christian (12-11) suffered the setback, throwing all six innings and allowing eight runs, but just three earned. She gave up nine hits and a walk while striking out one. UCF’s Ali Schmidt (7-2) earned the win, going the distance and surrendering two unearned runs on seven hits and three free passes. She also fanned three.
Game two had freshman Courtney Smith (3-8) take the loss for the Pirates, despite allowing just five hits. She walked one and struck out one in seven innings while allowing the two runs. Mackenzie Audas (13-5) blanked ECU on four hits and a walk. She fanned five in the complete-game performance.
In the opener, the Pirates threatened in the top of the first as sophomore Jill Jelnick led off the contest with a walk and classmate Kristi Oshiro followed with a bunt single, but a strikeout, pop out and groundout left the pair stranded.
East Carolina took advantage of a UCF error in the top of the second to go ahead 1-0. After a groundout started the frame, sophomore Alex Fieldhouse singled to right field. Schmidt struck out junior Kai Clark, but sophomore Chelsea Kaluhiokalani-Glackin reached on a fielding error by Danielle Brewer at second base to keep the inning alive. With runners on first and second and two outs, Jelnick singled to center to drive in Fieldhouse. An Oshiro fly out to center field ended the threat.
The Knights took the lead in the bottom of the third with three runs to make it a 3-1 game. Swan led off with a single and Madeline Schroeder was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with no outs. Natalie Land lined out to Fieldhouse at third base before a Christian wild pitch moved Swan to third and Schroeder to second. Perez’s single to right drove in the pair and gave UCF the lead. Christian struck out Farrah Sullivan, but Alena Murgatroyd delivered a two-strike single to left that drove in Perez for the two-run advantage. A groundout to Fieldhouse closed the inning.
Neither team mounted another scoring threat until the bottom of the fifth, when the Knights put together a rally with two outs. Sullivan reached on a single up the middle and Murgatroyd drew a walk. Hayley Barrow swung at the first pitch and sent a fly ball into right field, but sophomore Jordan Lewis made a running catch near the foul line to provide the third out.
ECU tried to respond in the top of the sixth, but was held off the scoreboard again. Senior Suzanne Riggs led off the frame with a single to center field. Sophomore Jasmine Robbins followed with a bunt that Barrow at third fielded, but Brewer, who was covering first, dropped Barrow’s throw, allowing Robbins to reach safely. Fieldhouse put down a sacrifice bunt that moved the runners to second and third. Schmidt, however, kept the Pirates off the board with two groundouts to Barrow.
After the defensive hold, UCF added five unearned runs in the bottom of the frame for the 8-2 final. A single by Kahley Novak, a fielding error and a Swan single loaded the bases with no outs. Another error provided the first run and refilled the bases. After a fly out to center, consecutive RBI singles by Perez and Sullivan made it a 6-1 contest. Murgatroyd followed with a sacrifice fly to Robbins in center that plated Schroeder. Robbins made the catch, threw the ball back to the infield and Sullivan got caught in a rundown between first and second. Sullivan ended up being safe at first and Perez scored on the play for the seven-run cushion. A pop out by Barrow to Oshiro in shallow right center halted the scoring.
Following an hour and 56 minute rain delay due to lightning and heavy rain, the Pirates scored once in the seventh for the 8-2 final. Jelnick reached on a fielding error by Barrow to start the frame. After a groundout moved Jelnick to second, Lewis reached on a single off the glove of Schmidt in the circle. Senior Priscilla Velasquez followed with a groundout to first that plated Jelnick. Riggs and Robbins drew back-to-back walks to load the bases, but a fielder’s choice closed the contest.
During game two, UCF jumped out to a 1-0 lead with a two-out rally in the bottom of the second. After a two pitches and a pair of groundouts started the frame, the Knights strung together three-straight hits to score. Novak, Brewer and Swan singled with Swan’s plating Novak from second base. Smith ended the threat with a pop out to Kaluhiokalani-Glackin.
Through the first four innings, East Carolina managed just two base runners – a Velasquez single in the second and a Jelnick walk in the third. In the fifth, the Pirates put two runners on with a pair of infield singles, but could not push a run across. After a pop out and strikeout started the fifth, Clark singled to Sullivan at third base and stole her first base of the season. Kaluhiokalani-Glackin followed with a chopper to Sullivan that she beat out to put runners on the corners with two down. A groundout to Brewer at first base kept ECU off the board.
In the bottom of the fifth, it was another two-out rally that delivered UCF's final run. With two down, Land walked on four pitches, stole second and scored on a Perez single to right center. Smith avoided further damage with a groundout.
Audas retired the Pirates in order in the sixth and worked around a one-out single by Lewis in the seventh to seal the victory.
The teams complete the series Sunday with a 12:00 p.m. contest.