FULLERTON, Calif. – Northwestern took a 4-0 lead and held on for a 4-2 victory over East Carolina on Saturday afternoon at the DeMarini Invitational. Marisa Bast drove in two runs and Amy Letourneau picked up the game-winning RBI with a single in the second inning to help the Wildcats (6-11) to the win. The Pirates (7-8) were led on offense by seniors Priscilla Velasquez and Suzanne Riggs, who combined for three hits and two runs batted in with Riggs hitting her team-leading third home run of the campaign.
Freshman Sarah Christian (5-4) tossed the first five innings for ECU, surrendering three runs, two earned, on eight hits and a walk. She also struck out two. Classmate Courtney Smith came in for the final two frames, allowing one run, four hits and a walk. Meghan Lamberth (3-4) threw five innings for Northwestern, scattering seven hits and allowing two runs and a walk while fanning four. Sammy Albanese entered for the final two frames and earned her first save of the year, retiring all six batters she faced and recording one strikeout.
Northwestern threatened in the top of the first, putting two on with two outs, but was held off the scoreboard. With one out, Kristin Scharkey beat out a roller in front of home plate and first baseman Velasquez's throw to first hit Scharkey in the back and went into right field, allowing Scharkey to move to second base. Christian struck out Adrienne Monka looking and, after a walk to Bast, retired Albanese on a groundout to sophomore shortstop Chelsea Kaluhiokalani-Glackin.
East Carolina also had a scoring opportunity in the first as a two-out single by sophomore Alex Fieldhouse and walk to Riggs put two runners on base. Lamberth rebounded to strike out sophomore Jordan Lewis to end the threat.
The Wildcats took advantage of another Pirate error in the second and took a 1-0 lead. Olivia Duehr singled to right field and advanced to second as Lewis had the ball bounce behind her. Letourneau followed with a single to center field that drove in Duehr. Christian came back to retire the next three hitters on a line out and pair of groundouts, stranding Letourneau on third base.
In the top of the third, the Wildcats added another run for a 2-0 edge. Scharkey beat out an infield single to open the frame and scored on a one-out Bast single to right center on a hit-and-run play. Albanese followed with a single to left field before a Duehr fielder's choice put runners on the corners with two outs. Duehr stole second, but Letourneau lined out to Kaluhiokalani-Glackin to close the frame.
Northwestern had another chance to score in the top of the fourth, but an inning-ending double play helped the Pirates avoid damage. Paige Tonz led off with a single up the middle and moved to second on a bunt by Anna Edwards. Velasquez fielded the bunt, but did not make a throw anywhere, putting runners on first and second with no outs. A groundout moved the pair up a base and Scharkey flew out to a hard-charging Jasmine Robbins in center field. Robbins made the catch at her shoe tops and fired home. Sophomore catcher Rebecca Lee then slapped on the tag and Tonz was out on the play to end the threat.
A solo home run with one out in the fifth inning by Bast gave the Wildcats a 3-0 advantage.
ECU threatened again in the bottom of the fifth, but could not break through. Velasquez led off with her second hit of the game and was replaced by sophomore pinch runner Abby Wynne. Robbins lined out to a leaping Bast at third base and Kaluhiokalani-Glackin struck out looking. Wynne stole second on the third strike to Kaluhiokalani-Glackin and moved to third on a single up the middle by sophomore Jill Jelnick. A groundout by Lee, however, kept the Pirates off the board.
The Wildcats added a fourth run in the sixth on a single to center field by Emily Allard. Letourneau led off with a walk and Mari Majam came in to pinch run. Tonz then singled to center and Edwards reached on a fielder's choice that put runners on the corners with one out. Allard followed with her drive to center that plated Majam before a pop out and groundout ended the threat.
In the bottom of the sixth, East Carolina cut the deficit to 4-2 as Fieldhouse doubled down the right-field line and Riggs homered to right center. Lewis followed with a single through the left side, chasing Lamberth and bringing in Albanese. Three-straight groundouts kept the Pirates down by two runs.
Albanese then sent down ECU in order in the seventh to preserve the victory.
The Pirates complete action at the DeMarini Invitational on Sunday with a 2:15 p.m. ET contest against Indiana (7-9) and then a 4:30 p.m. ET clash with No. 11 Stanford (15-3).
-- East Carolina hit a home run in each Saturday game after not having a long ball since Feb. 17 against UNCG.
-- Sophomores Alex Fieldhouse and Jill Jelnick are now batting .438 and .462, respectively, with runners in scoring position.
-- Fieldhouse has tallied eight hits in her last 11 games and has six multiple-hit contests, surpassing her total from 2011.
-- Jelnick’s current four-game hitting streak matches her career high, set March 6-10, 2011.
-- Senior Suzanne Riggs tallied her fourth multiple-RBI game of the year and has 14 such contests in the last two seasons.